Alan Fine was born in Benoni in 1953. He joined the Progressive Party in 1971 and started attending National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and SRC demonstrations when he started university in 1972. After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of the Witwatersrand he worked as a trade unionist for the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union in the 1980s. He was detained without charge twice for his anti-apartheid activities. He was arrested a third time in 1981 and this time he was charged under the Terrorism Act and Internal Security Act. Fine spent a total of 14 months in custody, the first six months for interrogation purposes, before he was eventually acquitted. He continued to work for the trade union movement after his trial and then worked as a journalist covering the transition from apartheid to democracy before working for AngloGold Ashanti focussing on issues of sustainability and public policy. He is the associate director at the R& A Strategic Communications agency.
In this interview Alan Fine describes growing up in a Jewish family in Benoni and how the holocaust loomed large in the memory of his parents’ generation. He talks about some of the influences that led him towards liberal and then more left-wing politics. He discusses his time in the Habonim youth movement, being conscripted into the South African Defence Force and joining the Young Progressives. He explains his decision to resign from the Progressive Party in the wake of the Western Deep Levels shootings in 1973. Fine speaks about the research he conducted for the Wages Commission, a sub-committee of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), the formation of the Industrial Aid Society, the resuscitation of the black trade union movement, and how he became involved in the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). He describes his parents’ attitude to his involvement in politics and talks about his stints in detention, including being interrogated by a former Wits SRC member who had been a campus spy. He discusses the circumstances leading to his arrest, the year he spent in custody charged under the Terrorism Act and Internal Security Act, his trial and eventual acquittal. He talks about continuing his trade union work after the trial and then working as a journalist, documenting the political transition from apartheid to democracy. He also talks about his relationship with Judaism, his position on Israel and his views on South Africa in the post-apartheid era [Written by: Jonathan Ancer].