Former ANC member of parliament and anti-apartheid stalwart Ben Turok has died.
Turok, who was 92-years-old, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning, his family said.
In a statement, they said: “He was always outspoken and dedicated his whole life to fighting for freedom, equality and social justice in South Africa. He was a loyal, lifetime member of the ANC, but retained an independent perspective throughout.”
As one of South Africa’s foremost thinkers — with degrees in engineering, politics, and philosophy — Turok is credited as being one of the authors of the Freedom Charter.
He served three years in jail after being sentenced in 1956 for treason against the apartheid regime. He also spent 25-years in exile, returning to South African in 1990.
In 1994 he was deployed to the newly formed PWV (now Gauteng) government where he led its Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
The veteran activist was an MP in the National Assembly for almost 20-years.
During his tenure in the legislature, he co-chaired the institution’s important ethics committee.
Turok is most recently known for going against his own party line when in 2011 he abstained from voting for the controversial Protection of State Information Bill.
As an act of defiance, he and fellow ANC MP Gloria Borman walked out of the National Assembly Chamber as the vote was scheduled to take place.
He argued at the time that the bill was unconstitutional. He has been proved right, with the unsigned bill gathering dust on the president’s desk, and it has now been sent back to Parliament to have problematic clauses changed.
After his abstention, Turok was praised from outside of his party, while facing the wrath from within.
Then ANC chief-whip and now minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, called out what he said was “ill-discipline” by Turok.
“The conduct of Comrades like Ben Turok in raising their objections by abstaining and using the media smacks of ill-discipline and will be handled internally by the ANC,” a statement from the former chief-whips office read.
Turok was hauled before a party disciplinary committee. There, he was represented by another former ANC MP, Pallo Jordan.
The charges against him eventually fizzled out and Turok left politics in 2014.
After leaving Parliament, Turok kept busy with as the director for the Institute for African Alternatives.
He also continued to act as publisher and editor of the New Agenda magazine — A quarterly politics magazine with senior government politicians and bureaucrats acting as contributors.
His family in a statement said Turok died not wanting any official ceremony commemorating him. “He asked for his death to marked by a private ceremony, rather than anything official or formal, in view of the present predicament facing the country. His wisdom and counsel will be sorely missed.”