Tuesday, 18 January 2011

And So I Stood: David Kitson (25.08.19 - 09.11.10)


For over 20 years I have kept and treasured a (now dog-eared) large poster which was printed to celebrate the release in 1984 from a South African prison of David Kitson ANC activist, SACP member and pivotal cadre member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, or Spear of the Nation) the armed wing of the ANC.

With David's death in Johannesburg before Christmas we should both mourn the sad loss of a true fighter in the South African liberation struggle, but also remember the acts of treachery and collusion that led to his political isolation when he moved from South Africa to London following his release.

As a student at Ruskin College in the 1980's I am my contemporaries knew of David's connections with Ruskin as a Ruskin student himself and then, disgracefully, in the way that he was mistreated by his own union (TASS a forerunner of MSF) which withdrew his union-funded opportunity to teach at Ruskin having been shunned by the ANC.

There are some wonderful tributes to David Kitson that do greater justice than I could in recording and celebrating his life. Please take the time to read these and please post comments when you have read these.






Paulski said...

Ian -

I don't look in on your blog as often as I should so here's my first comment for a while.

Great post pointing up something which I - & a lot of us, I'm willing to bet - didn't know. I had no idea that Kitson had been treated so shamefully. In the long run, it doesn't matter: his deeds speak for him & history gives him his place.

"And So I Stood": what an epitaph.

Hope that the accomodation block at Ruskin is still named for him (although I bet they've changed it to "The Mandelson Suite" or something).

Ian Manborde said...

Hi Paul,

Many thanks for the contribution.

You'll be pleased to know that Kitson block still carries the name. Although with the sale of Walton Street I have no idea if a building on the College's new site in Headington will be named Kitson - I'll let you know.

I took the phrase 'and so I stood' from Kitson's response to the attack he received from the ANC, TASS etc. who were asking him to denounce his wife for the anti-aprtheid work she was undertaking in the UK whilst he was in prison.

This whole period is a very dark one in the history of the ANC and of TASS itself and to be honest I had forgotten what had happened until I read DK's obituary in The Guardian this week.

Still, people like DK are what make Ruskin what it is and as you say Paul, we should remember him mostly for his actions in support of the liberation struggle in South Africa.

See you soon brother.


John Clements said...

What a truly fascinating life story - thank you for putting this item up.

I (perhaps naively) had never thought that the ANC would treat someone who had given so much to the anti-apartheid cause so much so badly.

And worse still to think that his union would treat him in this way is shocking. I had never thought that Ken Gill would had colluded in this way.

You never stop learning!

Ian Manborde said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the contribution. I suppose some would say that in the cauldron of South African politics at the time (and perhaps even now) it was impossible to conduct the affairs of the ANC without the ritual abuse and vilification of that is part and parcel of political life.

I have a number of friends in South Africa who see the treatment of David Kitson (and many similar epsiodes) as par for the course in sharpening/refining the ANC in readiness for government - and they don't mean this in a positive way.