Richard de Doncker 2008

Richard de Doncker was born of working class parents in Salisbury, Port Elizabeth in 1947, from where his family was forcefully removed as a function of apartheid policies in the 1960s.  This memory, instilled from a very early age, formed a lifelong passion in him to work towards the overthrow of the evil of apartheid and establish a democratic South Africa. It had a profound effect on him.  During the Soweto uprisings in 1976, he made contact with other individuals and groups in Port Elizabeth to organise and protest against apartheid education.

The events of 1976 and the deaths of anti-apartheid activists with whom he worked, such as the late George Botha, had a dramatic impact on the conscious and political outlook of Richard and his generation.  By the end of that decade, he had begun working at Sappi Mills where together with other activists he started organising workers in trade union activity which was then still banned.  By the early 1980s, the Paper Workers and Allied Workers Union (PWAWU) was formally constituted and launched.

Richard played a key role, as a trade union activist in encouraging the formation of organisations beyond the factory floor as he believed that worker freedom was only possible in the context of general political freedom in SA. As such, he threw his weight behind the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the early and mid-1980s.

During the 1990s, he became intensively involved in building local community structures in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth at a time when the apartheid system was beginning to show major cracks.  When the African National Congress (ANC) and other political organisations were unbanned in 1990, Richard became an active member at ANC branch level, where he continues to play a key role in giving leadership to local communities.

He remains one of those activists who never served in high positions in government or other political structures, but who has consistently remained true to the finest traditions and values of democracy.

Richard is married to Maureen and they have two daughters, Virginia and Bernadine, one son Walleed Kramer, and seven grandchildren.  He remains an active member of his church and local civic organisations in Schauderville.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University salutes him for his courage, commitment and personal sacrifice in the successful birth of a democratic South Africa, especially in the Port Elizabeth area, and is honoured to present Richard de Doncker with the Council Prestige Award.