ANC mourns Jan van Eck

The African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday expressed shock and sadness at the death of Burundian peace facilitator Jan van Eck.

“The ANC has learnt with utmost shock news of the passing away of Jan van Eck, whose immense contribution in ensuring a free and democratic South Africa cannot go unnoticed.”

Van Eck, who played a leading role in peace mediation efforts on the continent, died of heart attack at the age of 65.

“As a member of Parliament, Van Eck was one of the first sitting MPs to join the ANC after the organisation was unbanned in 1990. He left the then-Democratic Party to join the ANC long before the first democratic elections in 1994,” ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus said in a statement on Tuesday night.

At the time the ANC described the move as enhancing the non-racial approach of the ANC both within the organisation and in its commitment to a non-racial South Africa.

Among a group of South African “whites in a changing South Africa” to visit the then-ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 1989, Van Eck and the group that included religious leaders, intellectuals, city councillors, trade unionists, students and journalists, were praised by late ANC leader Oliver Tambo for braving arrest to meet the banned organisation.

The gathering was convened under the auspices of the Five Freedoms Forum and the ANC.

“There are many among us who deserve a special accolade—they are parliamentarians, including Parliament’s unfading star, the indefatigable Helen Suzman and the go-getting Jan van Eck,” Tambo told the gathering.

Van Eck worked tirelessly in such areas as Burundi to find a solution to the Tutsi-Hutu civil war that had for years wrecked that country’s political and economic stability, said Niehaus.

He played a significant role in brokering dialogue, building confidence and breaking down political and ethnic stereotypes in Burundi.

Van Eck won many accolades, including the “Paul Harris Fellow” by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world”.

“May his soul rest in peace,” the ANC said.—Sapa

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