Item Sue_Rabkin_interview_clip - Jews and the struggle for human rights, "Sue Rabkin interview"

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Jews and the struggle for human rights, "Sue Rabkin interview"

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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 Mensches In The Trenches - Jewish Foot Soldiers In The Anti-Apartheid Struggle (2022), The Victor Within (2000), Spy: Uncovering Craig Williamson
(2017) and Betrayal: The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies (2019).

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Sue Rabkin was born in 1948 and grew up in Hampstead in North London. Her grandparents came to Britain from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s. She met David Rabkin whose family had left South Africa in 1962 to live in England. Sue and David became involved in left-wing politics, joining the International Socialists and were recruited into the communist movement and the ANC. Sue and David got married and were sent by the ANC/SACP to South Africa to distribute movement propaganda. The unit, consisting of the Rabkins and Jeremy Cronin, was based in the Cape Town suburb of Clifton. After operating underground for four years the police arrested the trio in 1976. David Rabkin was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Cronin received an eight-year term and Sue Rabkin, who was pregnant, received a 12-month sentence, of which eleven months were suspended. Rabkin was released and deported to Britain where she continued her work for the liberation movement. Three years later she moved with her two children to Mozambique to rebuild the ANC underground in South Africa. David Rabkin was released in 1983 and joined the family in Mozambique. Two years later he was killed in a training exercise in Angola. After South Africa’s transition to democracy Rabkin worked with the Department of Defence, first in the civilian secretariat, and then as a special adviser to the minister - she advised three ministers in 12 years. She was appointed to the Denel Board in 2018 and serves on the ANC’s Integrity Commission.

In this interview Sue Rabkin talks about growing up in a left-wing Jewish family in London. She speaks about her experience volunteering for the Six-Day War in 1967. She recounts meeting David and being recruited into the communist movement and the ANC - and the training she received. Rabkin speaks about being sent to South Africa in 1972 as a member of the ANC with the mission to distribute SACP/ANC propaganda and set off leaflet bombs. She describes how the cell operated and the stress of working secretly in a dangerous political environment and how the security police cracked the unit. She talks about giving birth to her daughter Franny under prison guard in Pollsmoor Prison. She explains that after she was released from prison she lost all interest in Britain and realised her life was in South Africa. She reflects on her time in England working with the ANC and talks about typing Nelson Mandela’s autobiography that Mac Maharaj had smuggled out of Robben Island. She speaks about leaving England and being at the heart of the ANC’s political machinery in Mozambique, where she worked alongside Jacob Zuma. She talks about being reunited with David, and the family’s trauma of his accidental death. Rabkin reflects on her relationship with Zuma in Mozambique and her disillusionment when he was the president of South Africa. She talks about her children and her relationship with Judaism and explains why she is optimistic about South Africa’s future [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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