Namibia: Tributes to Lubowski At South African University

18 September 2019

The slain lawyer and Swapo activist Anton Lubowski was a Namibian patriot, a complete African, a freedom fighter and someone who embodied the essence of non-racialism, veteran journalist and political commentator Max du Preez said at a memorial lecture in Lubowski's honour at Stellenbosch University in South Africa last week.

Du Preez was one of the main speakers at a memorial lecture hosted by the university's law faculty on Thursday last week - which was the 30th anniversary of Lubowski's assassination in Windhoek on 12 September 1989.

"Anton Lubowski had enough courage to build bridges in a polarised society. He made it easier for other white Namibians to leave behind their fears and inhibitions, and to become part of the new nation of Namibia," Du Preez said.

"Anton deserves a place in the South African heroes acre, next to the Steve Bikos, Victoria Mxenges, Rick Turners and David Websters," he added, mentioning other political activists who were killed by state agents in South Africa because of their opposition to apartheid.

Former South African Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs, who in 1988 survived a car bomb blast in Maputo, Mozambique, which was carried out by agents of the South African state, was the other keynote speaker at the event. Anti-apartheid struggle veteran Dennis Goldberg, who was one of the men prosecuted in the celebrated Rivonia trial in 1963 and 1964, and family members of Lubowski also attended the lecture.

Lubowski studied law at Stellenbosch University in the 1970s, and later became one of the first white people to publicly become a member of Swapo.

In his remarks, Du Preez said: "One of the biggest failings of the post-1994 governments was that they never prosecuted those identified apartheid killers and torturers who never did ask or never got amnesty. There was abundant evidence that the conspiracy to assassinate Anton was perpetrated in South Africa. All the names of the conspirators are known. It's an outrage that they were never prosecuted."

He continued: "I still don't understand the government's haste to move on from the truth commission, to declare it yesterday's business. This undermined the value of the truth commission experience, and indeed our national sense of justice.

"Perhaps this neglect to bring those murderers to justice is partly to blame for the culture of impunity that we're still experiencing right now."

Du Preez spoke of his anger and outrage as editor of the Afrikaans anti-apartheid newspaper Vrye Weekblad when news of Lubowski's murder broke.

CRIMINAL IDEOLOGY

He said he wanted to smoke the killers out, and got his newspaper to launch an investigation that two months later led to revelations surrounding a South African Police squad, based at Vlakplaas, which murdered perceived opponents of the apartheid state, and also led to the unmasking of the South African Defence Force's Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), which was later found to have been responsible for the murder of Lubowski.

"It was important for an Afrikaans-language newspaper to show people in this way that apartheid was not a peaceful policy that was misunderstood, it wasn't peaceful co-existence of ethnic groups, but it was an evil and violent ideology.

"It could not exist without humiliation, without torture and without killing. And I thought at the time that Anton, my friend, would have appreciated the fact that his death triggered this search for the truth about what the South African regime, pre-1994, really stood for - this holding up of the mirror to white South Africans to look into."

Lubowski, who was killed at the age of 37, was "a fierce Namibian patriot", who also "served as an inspiration to many young white South Africans to stand up for justice," Du Preez said.

He added that Lubowski "was a freedom fighter in the proper sense of the word, but he wasn't driven by ideology. He did what he did because of a deep sense of justice and human solidarity."

Lubowski "was a complete African", he continued, who "embodied the essence of non-racialism - the idea that while we cannot deny the existence of race in terms of history and lived experience, we should constantly strive to overcome it as an absolute determinant of political loyalty and participation".

In his lecture, Sachs elaborated on how the writing of Namibia's Constitution served as a roadmap for the creation of South Africa's constitution.

In drafting the South African constitution, many constitutions elsewhere in the world were studied and borrowed from, Sachs recounted, adding that the most important guidance came from Namibia's Constitution - "the non-racial foundation, in an African country, of constitutionalism".

Turning to Lubowski, Sachs said his "contribution in Namibia had a knock-on effect, disproportionately huge and significant" on South Africa as well.

Lubowski was one of the rebels who became the creators of a new South Africa, he said: "Anton came from the 'Boere' section of our society, which made his being a rebel in a sense particularly poignant and sharp and significant, and particularly valuable in terms of the contribution it made."

Lubowski's death, Sachs added, was a dramatic and meaningful assertion of his commitment to the struggle for freedom.

Lubowski's daughter, Nadia, was moved to tears as she recalled: "Being the daughter of a father that dies is hard. Being the daughter of a political activist who was assassinated in front of our home [when I was] nine is difficult." The hardest, though, was that the murder of her father was never properly explained, she said.

The memorial lecture was initiated by Charl Adams, who was Lubowski's hostel roommate at the Stellenbosch University residence Simonsberg.

- Additional reporting by Werner Menges

* Watch video of the event on The Namibian's Facebook page and join in the dialogue.

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