A tribute to Gerald Kraak

| Zackie Achmat
Gerald Kraak in Amersfoort, Netherlands, quite soon after he had arrived there as a South African war resister in the early 1980s. Photo by Andrew Boraine and published with his permission.

Gerald Kraak (1956-2014), who was responsible for organising funding for many leading civil society organisations, died of cancer on Sunday night. Zackie Achmat pays tribute to his old friend.

Gerald Kraak was a friend, ex-boyfriend but above all a comrade to me and many others. As one of the leaders and organisers of the Committee of South African War Resisters in exile, Gerald helped divide white youth conscripted to the Apartheid army. Before that he was active in NUSAS in Cape Town.

On his return from exile until his death, Gerald was indefatigable in his efforts to enlarge, strengthen and advance democratic space in South Africa for the purpose of achieving justice and equality for all. There is not an area of civil society work in fundamental rights, open, accountable, ethical, efficient and effective government that he did not support through the funding organisations he worked for and led.

My first encounters with Gerald were in the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW). Later he became a firm supporter of the AIDS Law Project, an indispensable fund-raiser for the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Archives among others. The Treatment Action Campaign and Social Justice Coalition could count on his unstinting support while Equal Education was strengthened because of his funding work at Atlantic Philantropies. He helped created hubs of buildings for civil society organisations throughout our country and particularly in Khayelitsha.

The Other Foundation, a fund for LGBTI work, was started by Gerald. He also assisted with the establishment of the Social Justice Initiative, a body that encourages wealthy South Africans at home and abroad to contribute to the funding of social movements, public interest law and other civil society bodies.

Gerald had a lively, incisive intellect, a dry sense of humour, a terribly soft heart and a serious work ethic. He wrote a widely acclaimed novel Ice in the Lungs and a standing joke between us was that I did not read the novels of friends. On many issues, we did not agree but he would always turn to me for advice related to work.

Gerald’s work, love, activism, intellectual contributions and personal generosity lives on in all of us.

A correction to this article was made after publication in relation to Gerald Kraak’s role in the Social Justice Initiative. A further 25 words were removed at the request of the family.

TOPICS:  Society

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