Carl Brecker, died aged 81

Carl Brecker obituary

  • 24 September, 2018

My father-in-law, Carl Brecker, who has died aged 81, was a lifelong revolutionary socialist, born and brought up in South Africa, who opposed apartheid and spent over a quarter of a century in exile in Lesotho, the UK and Zimbabwe.

Having become active in the fight against apartheid as a member of the Non-European Unity Movement and organising secretary of the Cape Peninsula Students Movement, he was served with banning orders and in 1964 went into exile in what was then Basutoland (now Lesotho). Five years later he moved to Britain, where he was politically active, and later, having returned to South Africa, he was a campaigner and activist.

Carl was born in Cape Town, the only son of Norman, a mechanic, and Edith Brecker (nee Milton), who worked in a clothing factory. He attended Trafalgar high school. After studying accountancy at evening classes, he worked as a book-keeper in an ice-cream factory.

In Basutoland (which gained independence in 1966), Carl worked for the department of agriculture while his first wife, Sybil Vinden, whom he had married in 1960, practised medicine. They left Lesotho for the UK in 1969 with their two daughters.

Carl spent most of the 1970s in west London, working in finance at the West Middlesex hospital. He was active in local leftwing politics and the trade union movement: when the closure of Hounslow hospital was announced in 1977, he became one of the leaders of an occupation that lasted into the following year.

In 1980, he was refused naturalisation for reasons the then home secretary, William Whitelaw, refused to disclose. He and Sybil divorced and in 1981 he married Kate Truscott, a British citizen, before leaving for Zimbabwe with her.

In Harare, he gained a BSc and MSc in economics from the University of Zimbabwe. He did some teaching there and acted as an adviser to the co-operative movement. Kate worked for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Returning to South Africa in 1990, he became a trenchant critic of the African National Congress and its allies, including the South African Communist party. His published work included a short book, The Transition in South Africa (1996), which took issue with the ANC/SAPC’s commitment to the “national democratic revolution” as the first of two stages in the transformation of post-apartheid South Africa.

In Cape Town he established the Alternative Information and Development Centre with a small legacy from Kate, who died in 1993. AIDC was at the forefront of campaigns on the foreign debt left over from the apartheid era and the right to work. It also provided research and information for activists. He was devastated when political differences with some of his colleagues became irreconcilable and he left.

Carl is survived by Tania and Dee, the daughters from his first marriage, two grandchildren, Alex and Jashana, and a sister, Valerie.

The Guardian

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