Obituary: Struggle veteran Bunsee never gave up the fight

Stalwart: Bennie Bunsee. (Leon Muller)

Stalwart: Bennie Bunsee. (Leon Muller)



Political commentator and journalist Bennie Bunsee died on October 10, just 12 days short of his 80th birthday. He had undergone open-heart surgery recently and was readmitted to hospital with post-surgery complications shortly before his death.

Raised in Chesterville, Durban, Bunsee was a struggle veteran. As a teenager he taught himself to type so he could pursue a career in journalism, focusing on politics.

He spent many years in exile from South Africa as a vociferous opponent of apartheid. He was chiefly based in Hull in the United Kingdom as a member of the anti-apartheid movement, and studied economics at various British universities.

  He produced the pan-Africanist publication Ikwezi and regularly wrote articles for various South African journals and newspapers, including the Mail & Guardian.

Bunsee returned to South Africa at the time of the first democratic elections in 1994, and subsequently served in the government under then justice minister Dullah Omar.

He had been held in detention as a young man in what was then the Cape Province, and was deported from the Cape under apartheid laws that specifically targeted people of Indian heritage, restricting their movements between provinces.

Yet on his return to South Africa, Bunsee decided to live in Cape Town – specifically Wynberg, where he became a member and leader of the Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association.

He spoke out against an inappropriate townhouse development in the area and served on the association’s first executive committee.

As a member of the residents’ association’s community safety subcommitteee, he was outspoken against crime in Wynberg.

He backed a local campaign against the demolition of houses to make way for a controversial proposed MyCiTi bus route.

In February, he attended a candlelight vigil as part of the campaign – and walked the full route of the related evictions, despite his age.

His home on Prospect Hill Road was a vast library that housed his extraordinary collection of books.

Bunsee became increasingly disillusioned with the political landscape in South Africa. He was appalled by corruption, which he saw as an outright betrayal of the struggle.

Despite being a one-time stalwart of the Pan Africanist Congress, not a single political party was spared his incisive, forthright criticism.

Bunsee is survived by his nephew Michael, who moved to Cape Town to help him during his illness, and family in Durban and Manchester.

  A thoroughly dignified old-school gentleman, Bunsee was a special friend to his neighbours in Prospect Hill and Mountain View roads, and we will all miss him very much. – Darron Araujo



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