HISTORY SERIES: Tributes to Don Caldwell



Tributes to Don Caldwell who died in October 1992 shortly after his 32nd birthday


Frances Kendall (speaking at Don’s memorial): When I think of Don’s life in South Africa, I’m reminded of a shooting star. He came very quietly into our atmosphere, kind of small and pale, and not really noticed – but we didn’t know he was already travelling at a speed way beyond the rest of us… Leon used to say that he was like one of those computers that’s turbo boosted… You heard what his Seyswati name is – the one who shines from afar. Most shooting stars shine for awhile and then they disappear, but sometimes there is one that leaves a shining trail behind it. Don was one of that rare variety. For us, now, he will always be the one who shines from afar.


Dennis Beckett (writing in the Sunday Star): More than presence, there was personality. Don would throw parties that should go down in history. He’d have half the socio-political Establishment in an uproar because he’d make them leave their shoes at the door and their cigarettes too, and he’d have the children worshipping him because he treated them like adults except for supplying them with thick wool socks to skate on his floors… His legacy passes into South African public domain to emerge in ways large and small, subtle and blunt. It echoes already and will echo further… A short life. It leaves deep footprints. It leaves a large hole.


Anna Starcke (writing in the Sunday Star): Rarely can there have been a more immediate and persuasive demonstration of the extent of a grievous loss of a person … than that of Don Caldwell’s interview with Van Zyl Slabbert on the subject of political change and redistribution in SA … taped five days before his death… Here were most of the qualities that made Don the special, and as it now tragically turns out, all too transient, influence in our lives. His scintillating intellect, the almost disconcerting cheerfulness with which he conveyed his often radical ideas, indeed his very special brand of radicalism that somehow managed to combine touches of Thatcher, Lenin and Santa Claus with a healthy dose of down to earth pragmatism… Those of us who had the devastatingly brief privilege to be his friends will also miss the sheer joy this man-child with the perennial looks of the French comicbook hero Tin Tin spread around him… what Don learned, Don digested, then made it thoroughly his own and immediately redistributed it. I will miss him badly


Don Caldwell Trust: The Unconventional Hero Award


Terms of the award

In his books, South Africa: The New Revolution and No More Martyrs Now, Don Caldwell set himself the following goals: to shatter myths, overturn conventional wisdom, stir debate, and champion individual rights and ordinary people. Don achieved all these goals, not only in his books but in everything he did. He proved in a very short time that one individual can make a difference. The recipient of the Don Caldwell Award will be a person who, in the opinion of the trustees, is an effective advocate of the values in which Don believed so passionately, and who best exemplifies the qualities that made Don a very special human being. The recipient may be drawn from any profession or discipline. The award will be granted annually provided a deserving candidate can be found.


Award winners

Mzwandile Khumalo, founder of the “Orange Farm” school, won the first award in 1993 for his contribution to excellence in education.

The 1994 award went to Ray Phiri and Nico Carstens “in recognition of their musical partnership, which has made a unique contribution to harmony and healing in our new nation”.

Jill Wentzel received the 1995 award “in recognition of her unflinching support for the principles of liberalism and her courageous stance against those who turned a blind eye and refused to condemn revolutionary violence”.

The 1996 award went to Liz Clogg “in recognition of her fearless battle against racism, corruption and profligacy in local government; and her tireless efforts to retain real power for local government during South Africa’s transition”.

In 1997, the award went to Mandla Seleoane, Chairman of the Freedom of Expression Institute and William Saunderson-Meyer, author of the syndicated column The Jaundiced Eye. Mandla Seleoane’s award certificate reads: “…in recognition of his principled and courageous defence of freedom of speech”, and Saunderson-Meyer’s certificate as follows: “…in recognition of his stimulating and fearless commentary on controversial South African issues”.


TRUSTEES: Denis Beckett • Nigel Bruce • James Caldwell • Robert Caldwell • Thomas Caldwell • Eustace Davie • Norman Davis • Gail Day • Ed Emary • Symond Fiske • Richard Grant • Marie Grey • Theresa Griessel • Mark Heaton Libby Husemeyer • Clint Husemeyer • Rachel Jafta • Brian Kantor • Stan Katz • Frances Kendall • Mzwandile Khumalo • Aggrey Klaaste • John Koppisch • Dan Leach • Estelle Louw • Leon Louw • Terry Markman Nomavenda Mathiane • Nancy Myburgh • Temba Nolutshungu • Michael O’Dowd • Mashudu Ramano • Duncan Reekie • Lawrence Schlemmer • Mary Slack • Anna Starcke • Maureen Sullivan • Marc Swanepoel • Louise Tager • Gavin Weiman • Ann Weinberg • Patrick Wildermuth


Help FMF promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom become an individual member / donor HERE ... become a corporate member / donor HERE