Members of the Bloch family
Comrade Cheryl Carolus and family
Members of the Media
Friends and Comrades
Programme Director, Comrades and Friends, I am in pain. My heart is broken. Today we mourn.
We mourn because a humble son of the soil, a teacher and an educationist of note has departed.
As a movement, we have lost many a comrade, but Comrade Graeme Bloch's untimely demise has hit me the hardest.
We have truly lost one of our own, one of the finest cadre of our times.
I knew he was unwell with some terrible degenerative disease, but as faithful social beings, I kept hoping for miracles. None came.
Comrade Bloch is no more. He was, in a literal sense of the word, a humble servant of the people.
Comrade Graeme Bloch is no more. I repeat these words not for the mourners but for myself. I am trying to come to terms with this tremendous loss.
I yearn to invent the words of comfort to say to Comrade Cheryl Carolus, Graeme Bloch’s siblings and close friends and comrades, but words fail.
May his gentle soul rest in eternal peace!
May the family of the deceased, friends, and comrades be comforted during these difficult times!
It’s often said that we mustn’t speak ill of the dead because they have no opportunity to exercise their right of reply.
I believe in this cultural truism.
Yet, I also know that we have used this cultural injunction to reimagine ordinary lives as extraordinary.
Thus we are sometimes guilty of using many superlatives to describe our fallen comrades, occasionally undeserved.
But today, I feel that Comrade Bloch won’t allow me to speak just good about him unless it has an ingredient of truth.
Fortunately for Comrade Bloch, he lived an extraordinary life in extraordinary times; his life mirrored the fortunes and misfortunes of his times.
He dedicated his life to the Struggle till the end.
He lived freely. He loved openly. He laughed heartily.
His life was multi-layered (anti-apartheid activist, education activist, education policy analyst, academic and critic), yet his public posture was always driven by the revolutionary ideals of a Better Life for all.
He criticised our service delivery record in basic education because he wanted more for South Africa’s children. He always meant well.
He spoke on behalf of the marginalised to extract a better bargain for them, not himself.
Comrade Bloch practically grew up in the trenches of the anti-apartheid movement.
At least he lived to see the fruits of his labour, the post-apartheid SA of which he played a part.
For his activism from a young age till his untimely demise, he qualifies as part of the aristocracy of the revolution often reserved for the movement’s giants: The Sisulu, Tambos and Mandelas.
His mother, Comrade Rosalie, was herself a formidable anti-apartheid activist and member of the Black Sash.
Comrade Graeme Bloch’s political activism began when he became involved in the non-racial National Youth Action while a pupil at Westerford where he matriculated with the seventh-highest results in the Cape Province.
When he was 20, he was detained for two weeks and banned for five years for leading University of Cape Town students on a “solidarity march” after the June 1976 Uprisings.
When his banning order was lifted in 1981, he immediately resumed open anti-apartheid activism, becoming a founding member of the Detainee Parents Support Committee the same year.
In 1983 he was part of the End Conscription Campaign formation, an organisation that rejected military service under the apartheid government.
In the same year, he was part of the launch of the United Democratic Front in Cape Town, what would turn out to be an epoch-making event.
Thus Comrade Bloch became the epitome of what it means to fight for freedom.
Frequently he needed no title, but a just cause for freedom drove him eyeballs to eyeballs with the notorious security branch.
He was detained several times, harassed and spent time in solitary confinement.
Today we are scrambling to invent new superlatives to honestly describe the magnitude of the loss we are facing.
Words like “gentle giant,” “maverick,” “education policy guru,” and “humble soul” words escape clumsily off the tongue.
As a true revolutionary, he knew that greatness is buried deep in humility.
As they say in the Bible, humility requires the discipline of the tongue.
Although he displayed all characteristics of humility he had no discipline of the tongue.
He had a sharp tongue and was forthright due to his keen intellect, but the truth is that he had a schizophrenic relationship with the post-apartheid education reforms.
At once, he was an architect of the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE), SA’s first post-apartheid curriculum.
Yet, he also became an ardent critic of a battery of education reforms and grave challenges that still devil the basic education sector.
He once admitted to being “bipolar” about the South African school system.
He said sometimes he was hopeful but more often “depressed by the sheer scale of the problems”.
Nevertheless, he is the only academic to openly admit that the OBE policy was not suitable for South Africa’s conditions at a time, twelve years after it was unveiled with much fanfare.
What he hated the most was snail pace implementation of the education reforms.
He hated policy uncertainty, and he was offended by maladministration, lethargy and corruption.
Comrade Bloch was outspoken, oftentimes his criticism stung, yet it came from a place of love for this country and her people.
He loved the ANC but loved the people of this country even more.
He dedicated his entire life to ensure that our nation's young flowers come into full bloom and make us a genuinely proud nation.
In his honour, we shall rededicate ourselves to the noble ideas of thrift, honesty and hard work.
We cannot wallow in the ecstasy of freedom while some people are trapped in the unending cycle of poverty.
We must deal a decisive blow against lawlessness, land hunger and lack of basic necessities such as water, electricity and decent sanitation.
Our people deserve better.
When we pronounce Better Life for all in our lifetime, we must mean it in words and deeds.
Comrade Bloch had a sharp mind and an inquisitive disposition.
As a result, he didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Perhaps it was because he was born into the Struggle.
As we know, he immersed himself in the Struggle to end apartheid at a young age, often attracting the wrath of the apartheid police.
Cde Bloch earned his stripes as a revolutionary extraordinaire in the United Democratic Front (UDF), Detainee Parents Support Committee, National Education Crisis Committee (NECC), and End Conscription Campaign, amongst others.
Comrade Bloch is now safely in the hands of that immortalised ANC branch in heaven with such Struggle greats, including former President Nelson Mandela, O.R Tambo, Harry Gwala, Albertina Sisulu, Charlotte Maxeke, and many other stalwarts of our movement.
Comrade Bloch died too soon before we can bestow upon him a rare accolade of calling him a colossal figure.
Yet, during his colourful life, he exhibited self-effacing demeanour characteristics, which is one of the pillars of a colossal figure.
In him, we lost a dedicated servant of the people, an activist for education, and an education policy guru.
He was a hardworking and honest teacher, a disciplined cadre, a fighter for social justice and above all, revolutionary par excellence.
What particularly stands out for me is Comrade Bloch’s unrelenting desire for knowledge.
He wholeheartedly believed in the mind's power to continuously find answers even to questions yet to be posed.
His zest for academic inquiry knew no bounds. He was indeed a life-long student of education as a discipline.
Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the Bloch and Carolus families and the entire ANC, including its Alliance partners and South Africa’s people, are today left more destitute since Comrade Bloch’s early departure.
To many, he was a political mentor, a confidante, a friend and above all else, a disciplined cadre of the people’s movement, the ANC.
On behalf of our Government, South Africa's people, we send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the Bloch and Carolus families.
We hasten to heartily thank you for having lent us your son. He was indeed one of a kind.
We are indeed left poorer without him.
A complete picture of him as an accomplished activist teacher emerges in a moving tribute to Comrade Bloch from his Western Cape Student Congress (WECSCO) cadres.
They wrote: “Farewell comrade and teacher - who got us to look both down at the ground and up at the heavens.”
Nevertheless, the Bloch family must take solace in that your loss is shared across the length and breadth of our beautiful land.
May his soul rest in POWER!!!
I, thank you.