Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni, two of the Rivonia trialists. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni, two of the Rivonia trialists. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

The death of Denis Goldberg, accused number three at the Rivonia Trial, represents the severing of the physical link and connection to the raid on Liliesleaf on July 11 1963, which fundamentally altered the course and trajectory of our liberation struggle.

Of the six trialists who were arrested at Liliesleaf that fatal day, Denis until his death, was the sole survivor.

Andrew Mlangeni is now the sole surviving Rivonia trialist.

With Goldberg's death, our connection to a significant and defining period in our struggle for freedom is cut for good. What we’ll be left with will be memories, recollections and accounts.

Thus, the death of Goldberg throws into stark reality the need to preserve and protect the memory of our past, to ensure that deeds and words of struggle stalwarts like him are not lost to the annals of history.

On the day of the raid, Goldberg was sitting in the lounge of the main house at Liliesleaf, reading the book “Brighter than a thousand sun”, the first published account of the Manhattan Project and the German atomic bomb project.

In one of many interviews he gave to the Liliesleaf Trust about the raid, he turned to fellow trialist Ahmed Kathrada, who was with him at that time, and remarked: “Do you remember Kathy?  It was a July winter’s day, and I just got cold, I mean mentally cold”.

We could see in Goldberg’s eyes both the sadness at ultimately being arrested that day, but also the steely determination that he and his comrade’s arrests would not defeat their commitment to rid SA of apartheid.

Goldberg was a true struggle activist, who epitomised the very soul and essence of what it meant to be a servant of the people. He held true to the ideals of the Freedom Charter, of bringing about a transformational change to the country and SA society predicated on the notion that all are equal.

He was in the struggle not for self-interest nor for any material gain or acknowledgment but to rid our country of the blight of apartheid. He was willing like his fellow trialists to sacrifice the most precious gift of all, his life, for the betterment of a new social order where the people were judged by the content of their character.

To the very end he held to true to these ideals and was outspoken and critical of the ANC’s government's failure to realise the clauses of the Freedom Charter.

He was the embodiment of our struggle. His voice will be sorely missed but his memory and deeds will live on forever.

• Wolpe is the founder and CEO of the Liliesleaf Trust