The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) mourns the passing of one of its first staff members, Cecyl Esau. A former struggle stalwart and Robben Island inmate, Cecyl will be remembered by his contemporaries for the mobilisation of communities in the fight against apartheid. Unlike many of his comrades who entered public office after 1994, Cecyl remained committed to the building of agency within the same marginalised communities that he served during the struggle years. Within IJR’s Reconciliation and Reconstruction Programme, which later became the Sustainable Dialogues Programme, Cecyl delivered ground-breaking work in the field of oral history.
He travelled across the lengths and breadths of the country to listen and capture the stories of ordinary people’s experiences of living under, and with the legacy of, apartheid. It is this genuine interest in people’s lived experiences that we will remember him for. Cecyl listened to understand, not to judge, because he believed that at the heart of our problems as a country lies the inability to see the world through the eyes of others. Only when we are able to do this, Cecyl said on many occasions, will the process of transformation become a healing one as opposed to process of constant resistance and contestation. For us at IJR he embodied the true spirit of what reconciliation should be. We will miss this noble, but humble, fighter for the voices of ordinary South Africans. Mooi loop, Cecyl.
Rest in peace dear comrade, colleague, and friend. Your legacy will remain alive in our organisation.