South African anti-apartheid activist and outspoken African National Congress (ANC) veteran Professor Ben Turok died in the early hours of Monday, his son said.
Ben Turok, 92, died on the morning of 9 December according to a statement by his son Ivan Turok, without giving further details about his death.
“He was always outspoken and dedicated — his whole life to fighting for freedom, equality and social justice in South Africa,” Ivan said in the statement.
“He was a loyal, lifetime member of the ANC, but retained an independent perspective throughout.
“His wisdom and counsel will be sorely missed.”
Local media reported that the former parliamentarian and economics lecturer had been ill and hospitalised for some time in a Cape Town hospital before meeting his death.
Formerly an anti-apartheid hero, Turok was a key member of the delegation that drew up the Freedom Charter in 1955 and also served time in jail during apartheid for treason.
“Comrade Turok dedicated his life to the struggle against racism and oppression,” the ruling ANC said in a statement, adding that he was “unwavering, vocal and unambiguous” in his committment to the freedom of the people of South Africa.
Turok also stood out as one of the few ANC members to openly speak out against government-led corruption under ex-president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
Tributes poured in from all sectors of society on social media.
“A very independent comrade has gone. Thank you for ur intellectual contribution to the RSA’s body politic. RIP,” opposition leader of the United Democratic Movement, Bantu Holomisa tweeted.
“Prof Ben Turok sparked a fire in my generation … that led us to the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall movements,” @Lwazi_Somya said.
Another social media user, @Swannie1, tweeted, that he was “one of the only ANC members of parliament who took a stand and voted against Zuma. RIP Mr Turok.”
The family said the stalwart had asked that “in view of the present predicament facing the country”, his death should be marked by a private ceremony, rather than anything official or formal.
He is survived by his wife Mary, three sons and extended family.