Death of an Idealist: In
search of Neil Aggett is the story behind the only white detainee to die in
custody of apartheid’s security police. A medical doctor who worked most of the
week as an unpaid trade union organiser, Neil Aggett’s stark non-materialism,
shared by his partner Dr Elizabeth Floyd, aroused police suspicions. When their
names appeared on a list of ‘Close Comrades’ prepared for ANC leaders in exile
they were among a swathe of union activists detained in 1981.
Beverley Naidoo traces
the transformation of the youngest child born to settler parents in Kenya at
the height of Mau Mau resistance to colonial rule. The book explores the
metamorphosis of a high-achieving, sports-loving white schoolboy into the
28-year-old whose coffin was followed by thousands of workers through
Johannesburg to his grave. The extraordinary funeral and the preceding national
work stoppage were a watershed for trade union unity.
reveal the fraught, intense world of activists inside the country in the late
‘70s and early ‘80s as the ANC-in-exile pushed to link with emerging black
unions. Neil’s non-materialism and his concern about to whom union organisers
should be democratically accountable still demand engagement today.
stories run through this fully-referenced biography of a stoic, stubborn,
principled thinker who became a militant yet gentle activist. They include the
huge rift with a dominant father who later ploughed his savings into his son’s
inquest, funding a top legal team led by George Bizos SC who offers the
Foreword to Death of an Idealist.
BEVERLEY NAIDOO was born
in Johannesburg where she went to Parktown Convent and the University of
Witwatersrand. She was detained under ‘90-days’ in 1964 before continuing her
education at the University of York, England. She holds a Ph.D for research
into British teenagers’ responses to literature and racism, published as
Through Whose Eyes?
Beverley began writing
in exile. Her first two books were banned in South Africa until 1991. She has
written novels, short stories, poetry and plays. Her many awards include the
Carnegie Medal for The Other Side of Truth and honorary degrees for a body of
work. Beverley and illustrator Piet Grobler (co-creators of a South African
Aesop’s Fables) were the 2008 South African nominees for the Hans Christian
In Burn My Heart,
Beverley explored in fiction the colonial world into which her younger cousin
Neil Aggett was born in Kenya during the Mau Mau resistance. Death of an
Idealist: In search of Neil Aggett is a fully-referenced biography exploring
his transformation into the militant yet gentle doctor-cum-union activist who
became the 51st, and only white, detainee to die in security police custody.