The ANC politician who spent 22 years in a cell after being jailed with Nelson Mandela is now 84

Denis Goldberg has faced down death before. Half a century ago he sat in the dock with Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial, the court case that shaped modern South Africa. Both were expecting to be executed for their fight against apartheid. When the judge handed down a sentence of life imprisonment instead, he called out in joy to his anxious mother: “It’s life, and life is wonderful.” He confesses to being a born optimist.

Now 84, and facing in lung cancer an enemy even more implacable than the apartheid state, he is hoping to defy death for another short spell while he throws himself into one last campaign, to build a centre for the arts – to be called House of Hope – in his home town of Hout Bay.

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