PLEASE allow me to pay tribute to the late Judge Jan Steyn (“High Court’s judge Steyn dies aged 85”, December 31). I came to know Steyn when he was introduced to me through an invitation by the late Govan Mbeki.
Mbeki shared with me that Steyn used to spend some time visiting the Rivonia trial prisoners on Robben Island and was concerned about the conditions to which they were subjected. He made attempts to make representations to the authorities for them to be given more humane treatment as they were prisoners of conscience and not common criminals.
When Mbeki was released from Robben Island in 1987 he made sure Steyn, who was chairman of the Urban Foundation, became exposed to the conditions of squalor under which blacks were living especially in the Soweto-on-Sea area of Port Elizabeth. Steyn accepted the invitation and was equally touched to see human beings subjected to that kind of life.
As chairman of the Urban Foundation, he was instrumental in influencing that foundation, together with some white businessmen, to fund the housing of the people of Soweto-on-Sea. Through his influence we established the Mzingisi Development Trust and I was elected chairman.
Steyn will go down in the history of South Africa as one of the few whites who came from the Afrikaner group, and who had compassion and recognised the heartlessness of the apartheid system driven by Afrikaners who were practicing Christians of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Without people like Steyn, there would have been no Govan Mbeki Township and no Xundu Village in the KwaDwesi extension.
Let his family know that we are indebted to Jan and his family for their contribution to the welfare of black people at a time when it was not fashionable to do so.
Those of us who have experienced the oppressive and heartless regime know that even in the darkest hour God raises people with the heart of the daughter of Pharaoh who nurture the Moses of that time.
I have no doubt that all the families who received better housing from the humanitarian contribution of those like Steyn will forever be grateful for their contribution. They are now recipients of that legacy.
May he rest in peace.
MO Xundu, former chairman, Mzingisi Development Trust (MDT)