The icon who faced apartheid head on
When South Africa remembers its finest sons and daughters, the name of Bram Fischer will be hoisted high on the mast of pride to be seen and emulated for its enduring courage and hope against all obstacles. Breaking ranks with his Afrikaner upbringing, Fischer envisioned a new world after his stint as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
He was a descendent of the Afrikaner political “royalty” who arrived in the Free State after the Voortrekkers left the Cape in the Great Trek. It took Fischer’s own “great trek” to England and Europe for him to see a different world where there was a semblance of human rights. It also took Bram a trip to the then USSR to appreciate the political doctrine of communism, which he later embraced. Fischer’s sterling contribution to the struggle for freedom had a different foundation to that of others who waged such a struggle against oppression and apartheid.
Africans joined the struggle because they were the primary casualties of its nefarious policies. They were on the receiving end of its harsh and dehumanising policies and laws. So standing up and fighting against their own oppression was a natural thing to do. Fischer’s struggle against oppression was not based on the fact that he was affected by it. He was one of the racial and class power elite of the day.
So why did he abandon his upbringing to fight alongside oppressed Africans for their own freedom? It was not his own freedom that was at stake, his was given both by birth and profession. He could have risen high in the echelons of white South Africa to assume any office that his heart desired. As a famous and successful mine lawyer he wined and dined with the mine magnates of South Africa and the world.
As a descendent of the high ranking Afrikaner family, all imaginable political and legal avenues were open to him. He was proud of his heritage and language, but broke ranks to take sides with the oppressed people. He had nothing to benefit from fighting against apartheid since he was himself privileged. It required a great sense of duty, abiding faith in one’s choices and firmness to abandon a privileged heritage and the high industrial and mining class as well as its “obscene” wealth to suffer the fate of the poor.
Bram Fischer must be remembered and the naming of the Free State Airport in his honour was a crowning reminder that there once lived a brave and a courageous man.
Qondile Khedama is the spokesperson for Mangaung Metro Municipality and Thami ka Plaatjie is the Advisor to Lindiwe Sisulu.
This article has been paid for and signed off by the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.