Donald Woods, who died in London on Sunday at the age of 67 of cancer, was an outstanding South African who inspired others by his public example, former President Nelson Mandela said on Monday.
”He was uncompromising in his opposition to racism and racial discrimination,” Mandela said in a statement released by his office.
”At the height of apartheid his newspaper campaigned fearlessly against the basic tenets of that policy.”
The former editor and founder of East London’s Daily Dispatch lived his own life in ways that demonstrated his commitment to the principles he preached.
”We shall remember him as a personal friend who gave endlessly of himself to advance the cause of his country,” Mandela said.
Woods’ daughter Jane said her father had been ill for some time with cancer. He died in a hospital in Sutton, in the southern English county of Surrey.
”He was continuing to work and go on holiday when three weeks ago it was discovered the cancer had spread to his liver. The doctors said there was nothing they could do and he died today at lunchtime,” Jane Woods (38) said on Sunday.
Woods was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II last year for his contribution to promoting human rights.
He had settled in London, and paid his last visit to South Africa in May to attend the wedding of Nkosinathi Biko, the son of his friend Steve Biko, the black consciousness leader killed in 1977 while under detention by apartheid era police.
Woods was editor of the Daily Dispatch from 1965 to 1977, when he was banned for five years by the National Party government.
He escaped from South Africa with his family at the end of 1977, and became known throughout the world with the release of the Richard Attenborough film ”Cry Freedom,” about Woods and Biko, his constant campaigning for a democratic South Africa, and through his books, lectures and journalism.
He was to prove a more formidable and effective foe of apartheid abroad than he would have been able to within South Africa.
In 1978 he became the first private citizen invited to address the UN Security Council.
He campaigned against apartheid in 36 lecture tours of the United States over 12 years, was consultant on South Africa to the European Union in Brussels, and to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, and briefed many heads of state in the Western democracies.
He returned to South Africa after 13 years in exile in August 1990 and thereafter made many visits.
President Thabo Mbeki said from Uganda, where he was attending a summit, that he appreciated the courage shown by Woods in the fight against apartheid.
Mbeki’s representative, Bheki Khumalo, said in a statement that the president had recently written to Woods to thank him for a copy of his latest book ”Rainbow Nation Revisited.”
In the letter, Mbeki described Woods as ”a brave editor … who sacrificed much to fight for decency and justice”. – AFP, Sapa