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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Govan Mbeki dies
Govan Mbeki
Govan Mbeki after his release from prison in 1987
The father of the South African president and veteran leader of the anti-apartheid struggle, Govan Mbeki, has died at his home in Port Elizabeth aged 91.

Mr Mbeki spent almost 25 years imprisoned on Robben Island, alongside Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress.

Govan Mbeki
BornJuly 1910
Joined ANC 1935
Graduated University of Fort Hare 1936
Elected ANC National chair 1956
Jailed for life 1964
Released 1987
Retired 1999
Confirming his death, a presidential spokesman said : "He passed away in his bed in the early hours of this morning. We believe that he was sleeping at the time.

The late Mr Mbeki belonged to a generation of ANC leaders who spent almost their entire lives fighting against apartheid and who, in their later years were, able to see their dreams realised.

Deep disagreement

In the 1940s and 50s he rose up the ANC ranks, and strengthened its position in his native Eastern Cape.

L to R: Thabo Mbeki, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela
He came from a generation of leaders who saw their liberation dreams realised
In the 1960s he stood beside Nelson Mandela and others at the Rivonia trial. There then followed a quarter of a century in prison on Robben Island. He was released in 1987.

During these years, Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela sometimes had deep disagreements on how the struggle should proceed.

Very much an intellectual, Govan Mbeki took more of a hardline revolutionary approach than some other ANC leaders.

Sorely missed

The late Mr Mbeki had a reputation as an austere, frugal man with great integrity.

Asked recently how he felt about the fact that his son Thabo Mbeki was now president, he replied that he felt fine, not because Thabo was his son, "but because he was someone who could carry on with the work of the ANC."

Mr Mbeki Snr will be sorely missed by the ANC and he would be remembered as a very effective back room tactician and strategist.

He was married to Epainette but it is understood they have lived seperatly in the last few years.

Mr Mbeki is survived by three sons and a daughter.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips, in Johannesburg
"Govan had a reputation as an austere, frugal man with integrity"
The BBC's Carolyn Dempster
"The ANC will remember him as one of the finest South African thinkers"
Ahmed Kathrada, former SACP leader
remembers his time imprisoned on Robben Island, with Govan Mbeki
See also:

29 Aug 01 | Africa
Meeting Mr Mandela
18 Jun 01 | Africa
Timeline: South Africa
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