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Jews and the struggle for human rights, "David Lewis interview"
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- Sound recording
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- Jonathan Ancer
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Name of creator
Jonathan Ancer is a journalist, who has held various positions on a
variety of publications: reporter on The Star, editor of Grocott’s
Mail and crossword columnist for the Cape Times. He has won awards for
hard news journalism, feature writing and creative writing. He is the
author of The Victor Within (2000), Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson
(2017) and Betrayal: The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies (2019).
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David Lewis was born in Klerksdorp in the North West Province in 1949. He received his training in economics from the universities of the Witwatersrand and Cape Town. After graduating he became involved in the trade union movement, he headed up the General Workers’ Union and was appointed national organiser of the Transport and General Workers Union. He was detained at the start of the meat workers’ strike in Cape Town in 1980 and spent three months in detention.
In 1990, he directed UCT’s Development Policy Research Unit, which specialises in trade and industrial policy. Between 1994 and 1996, he was special adviser to the Minister of Labour and co-chaired the Presidential Commission on Labour Market Policy. Later, he was a member of the task team that advised the Minister of Trade and Industry on the development of competition policy. Lewis participated in the drafting of the Competition Act, was a member of the Competition Board, and was appointed chairperson of the Competition Tribunal in 1999.
He was appointed an extraordinary professor at the Gordon Institute of Business Science and is the author of Thieves at the Dinner Table. In 2012 he became the executive director of Corruption Watch, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to combating corruption.
In this interview David Lewis talks about growing up in a liberal Jewish family in the conservative town of Klerksdorp in the North West Province. He describes his integration into opposition politics, how he became part of the “cultural left” at the University of the Witwatersrand and why he was drawn to the Wages Commission of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). He also talks about his time as a conscript in the South African Defence Force in 1967. Lewis reflects on his parents’ attitude to his involvement in opposition politics. He explains the different political factions of the developing labour movement and the role of the General Workers Union - and his own role as the general secretary, which involved recruiting African workers in Cape Town. He discusses the political environment of Cape Town in the 1980s, referring to the meat strike in the Western Cape in 1980 and his arrest 10 days after the strike was launched. He recalls the three months he spent in detention. Lewis talks about his work after the unbanning of the ANC, which included joining UCT’s Development Policy Research Unit, where he led the Industrial Strategy Project to determine the country’s economic policy. He also discusses his Jewish identity, his views on Israel and gives insight into the issues facing South Africa 26 years after democracy [Written by: Jonathan Ancer].
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Donated by The South African Jewish Museum
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Unless otherwise stated the copyright of all material on the Jewish Digital Archive Project resides with the South African Jewish Museum.
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