With a tenacious spirit and a lifelong record of fighting the good fight, Terry Crawford-Browne has earned himself a
reputation as one of the country’s top corruption busters.
From fighting apartheid’s conscription to his decades-long campaign exposing corruption in the country’s arms deal, the Ireland-born Mr Crawford-Browne is not one to back away
from a fight.
At 77 he shows little sign of slowing down. He heads up the South African chapter of World Beyond War – a global non-violent movement that wants to abolish war.
“Both the world and South Africa is a mess. But it’s the dark before the dawn,” he says.
In his latest book, Eye on the Gold, Mr Crawford-Browne touches on the land issues in South Africa and the redundant apartheid-era military bases scattered across the country.
Eye on the Gold is Mr Crawford-Browne’s third instalment in a
series of must-reads for activists and scholars.
He was forced to cancel the book launch in April after lockdown was announced a few days earlier.
“Land is understandably a highly contentious and emotive issue given the dispossessions and evictions of the colonial and apartheid eras. The intention during the Defence Review was that local communities rather than property developers should be
the beneficiaries of redevelopment of those now redundant military bases,” he writes in Eye on the Gold.
In 2013, he was part of a group that met with then Premier Helen Zille and then Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille to discuss why Youngsfield and Wingfield military bases are not redeveloped for housing to replace the shacks in Khayelitsha and Dunoon.
“Zille and De Lille shut us down, conveniently blaming the ANC and claiming that they have written to the Department of Public Works (DPW) making such requests, but DPW ignores them. There is still no progress even now that De Lille is the Minister
of Public Works,” he says.
Land shortage for social housing is acute especially in the Western Cape, he says.
“It manifests itself in social unrest and frustration in Dunoon and Joe Slovo, including the tragic burning of buses and schools. The ANC central government simply does not want to give the DA credit for anything and, in turn and equally disgracefully, the DA
doesn’t want ‘more refugees’ from the Eastern Cape. And the poor suffer the consequences of this bickering.”
With an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of greed and corruption unfolding behind the scenes, Mr Crawford-Browne has not allowed it to weigh him down. He discusses these grim topics with ease on his sun-soaked balcony in Royal Ascot, letting out a hearty laugh every once in a while. But he admits “the 80s were tough”.
Playing a key role alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu to impose financial sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s may have had something to do with that.
In Eye on the Gold, Mr Crawford-Browne recalls his time lobbying
bankers, politicians and church networks “to tighten sanctions as a last non-violent strategy to avert a civil war in South Africa.
While his efforts gained international momentum, at home death threats and phone tapping became part of everyday life.
Like Archbishop Tutu, Mr Crawford-Browne decided he would
leave it up to God to protect him.
In addition to God’s protection, he also found a strong anchor in his wife, Lavinia.
Her career has included serving as Archbishop Tutu’s personal assistant for 22 years and heading the marketing department at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. The two were engaged six weeks after meeting and married two months later.
“I’ve just been very fortunate,” says Mr Crawford-Browne of his 52-year marriage.
Asked how he felt about being part of shaping history, he says: “It’s been an amazing privilege to be a part of it all. But then
again, it’s an amazing country.”