Ian van Driel

Oupa will be sorely missed

By Ian van Driel

Firstly, I wish to express my condolences to the Lehulere family, to Maria and Searatoa, to the

Staff of Khanya College and to all Oupa’s comrades and friends.

Today is a sad day, as we are bidding goodbye to a partner, a father, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a relative, a comrade, a mentor, a teacher and a friend. Despite our grief we are all happy to have known Oupa, and so today we have gathered here to celebrate Oupa’s life and to express our gratitude for all he meant to each of us.

It is said that as a young girl grows up, she builds a unique relationship with her father, for he is a teacher, a protector and an advisor. When a young woman chooses a life partner, she looks for similar qualities that her father possessed. Our dad, the late James Van Driel had great respect for women, and it is for this reason that Maria chose Oupa.

Oupa like my father recognised the importance of education for women. They both recognised that women should have an equal voice with men and that women should have the freedom to question male dominated societies.

But, I digress. Back to the story of how we met Oupa and about the long association between the Van Driel family and Oupa. This association started way back in 1978 when my sister, Nicky met Oupa and Kent Mkalipi at the Career Research and Information Centre in Claremont, Cape Town. Nicky and Oupa immediately clicked and a friendship and camaraderie was borne.

Oupa came to visit our council house in Primrose Park house in 1978. By today’s standards a social visit would seem like a pretty mundane event. Yet, it was not, as apartheid society imposed divisions on those classified Coloured and African, and Indian and White. Apartheid wished to keep people separated from each other. So, by this simple act of visiting a friend, Oupa Lehulere was being quite subversive.

My parents welcomed all our friends, and they welcomed Oupa as well. By the time 1980 came along, Oupa and Nicky and many leaders of the Committee of 81 were detained in the midst of the hugest student protest the Western Cape has ever seen.

As a family, the Van Driel’s were concerned about all the detained student and community leaders. Oupa’s detention was particularly long and harsh. After many months in detention and a sabotage trial, he and his co-accused were found not guilty only to be re-detained as they left court. Oupa suffered personally at the hands of the Security Branch, He was only 16 in 1976 when he first became involved in politics. And for that we salute him.

Oupa’s life revolved around his family; Maria, Searatoa and his family in Cape Town were very important in his life. And his time was devoted to the struggle of the working class. The poor and the downtrodden.

Oupa loved political debate, it was his sauce, his gravy at every meal. He and Searatoa enjoyed many a debate and discussion. I am sure that Searatoa will carry the intellectual and political legacy of her father forward. Oupa loved writing on everything political. Oupa loved life to the fullest and lived his life to the fullest.

In conclusion, to Maria, Searatoa and the Lehulere family I can only say, May God grant you comfort in the days and weeks to come. Oupa will be sorely missed by the Van Driels.

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