The Democratic Alliance is greatly saddened by the death of John Kane-Berman, who died in Johannesburg yesterday at the age of 76.
Mr Kane-Berman’s life’s work was in service of the principle of non-racialism. He believed in the power of ideas, excellence in research, and good writing. These he used to better South Africa.
As CEO of the then South African Institute of Race Relations from 1983 to 2014, he oversaw the SAIRR’s prodigious and thorough research documenting the injustices and absurdities of apartheid and tracking South Africa’s transition, including through its yearly comprehensive publication, the South Africa Survey.
He was very committed to the SAIRR’s comprehensive bursary programme which enhanced the education of thousands in South Africa.
The ideas promoted by the SAIRR ensured the liberal basis of the South African Constitution adopted in 1996. His engagement with liberal ideas and non-racialism began early.
As President of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), he fought against racial segregation in universities. NUSAS under his leadership confronted government directly and elevated student politics to a key role-player in defeating apartheid.
As a young journalist for the Financial Mail, he played his part in exposing the apartheid government in its lies. Such was his influence that it is said that it was at his behest that Robert Kennedy visited South Africa in 1966 toward the anti-apartheid cause.
As a youth leader, he worked on Helen Suzman’s 1966 campaign that enabled her political rise and that of the Progressive Party, the liberal party in which the Democratic Alliance has its roots.
Whether as a student, or as a journalist and then at the South African Institute of Race Relations, Kane-Berman made sure that there was nowhere for the apartheid government to hide from the facts about the consequences of its policies.
He continued to apply the same beliefs in the power of ideas and rigour in research to the challenges of post-apartheid South Africa.
Mr Kane-Berman played no small part in the demise of apartheid and in the persistence of the idea of the rule of law, non-racialism and protection of the vulnerable in the post-apartheid era.
The Democratic Alliance salutes his principled contribution to South Africa and offers its condolences to his partner Pierre Roestorf.