Saturday, 9 August 2014

Obituary for John Daniel in the Swazi Observer

Former University of Swaziland political science lecturer Dr. John Daniel is dead. He died on July 25 of an undisclosed cause.

He was very popular among students, especially South Africans for his role in providing scholarships to those exiled by apartheid during his tenure in Swaziland in the eighties. He was, however, very unpopular with the establishment headed by then Liqoqo following the passing on of King Sobhuza II in the early eighties. Dr. Daniel was thought to be instrumental in giving advice to the student representative council which ran endless battles with Liqoqo that wanted a firm control of the university. He assisted many South Africans who wanted to join the liberation movements especially the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress with passage to then frontline states where these organisations were based. He was more inclined to assist the ANC.

To the Swazi authorities of the day Dr. Daniel was a sort of a nuisance that ‘polluted’ the innocent young minds of Swazis who were regarded as apolitical and unsophisticated. At the time there was simmering resistance against the Liqoqo by university students who felt they were misleading the country in the absence of a King. The Liqoqo called itself the Supreme Council of State.

The Mail & Guardian reported that while chairing the Swaziland scholarship committee for South African refugees and working with the Geneva-based World University Service, Dr. Daniel continued his activist work in support of the banned ANC.

The newspaper said he did so “without fanfare or submitting to intrigue”, quoting Horst Kleinschmidt, a fellow National Union of South African Students, (NUSAS) activist. It said Dr. Daniel was deported from Swaziland when the Swazi government banned the ANC in 1985, then spent a year as a research fellow at the University of Amsterdam, and five years as Africa editor at Zed Books in London.

He returned to South Africa in 1991 as a senior lecturer in international relations at Rhodes University, and in 1993 was appointed chair of political science at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW). From 1997 to 2000 he was a senior researcher for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with a focus on documenting human rights violations committed by the apartheid state.

In 2001 Daniel moved to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). He worked both as research director on governance and democracy and established HSRC Press, co-founding and co-editing the first four volumes of the bestselling State of the Nation series with Professor Roger Southall, reported thee newspaper.

Scholar for International Training (SIT), mourning Dr. Daniel’s passing  said he was known by many as the Academic Director and for his legendary role in South Africa’s anti apartheid struggle. He is a former Academic Director (AD) in Durban, South Africa, academic coordinator of the South Africa: Social and Political Transformation programme, and lecturer and advisor for both Durban programmers.

They said John’s life’s work on behalf of a free South Africa and his activist research bringing to harsh light the atrocities committed by the state were—and would continue to be—his profound and much lauded legacy.

He was regarded as a consummate example of what all strive for, but few ever attain—an embodied and unwavering commitment to counter injustice, to render powerless the inequalities that starkly divide, and  ensure that all people question alleged authority, read widely, feel deeply and demand a better world. “As a friend, mentor, colleague, advocate, instigator, joyful presence, provocateur, whirlwind, intellectual heavyweight and devoted educator, John was an unforgettable presence in our lives. Our students on his programmes—having learned first-hand through his scholarly guidance, activist imperatives, and mischievous, defiant example—are among the most fortunate at SIT. “To imagine the world without John is truly painful—even unbearable—but we take solace in the extent and power of his influence and his living legacy, imbued in hundreds—thousands—of us around the world,” said Tina Mangieri, PhD, dean for Africa, South of the Sahara.” Alumnus Daniel Forti remembers John as truly embodying “the meaning of public service.” “Throughout his entire life, John wholly dedicated himself to the people of South Africa, whether as a student leader and anti-apartheid activist, an exiled militant, a professor, a human rights researcher, an academic director, and most importantly, as a father and a friend,” Forti said. “He exemplified dedication, justice and love; his life will be celebrated by all who knew him for many years to come.”