TRIBUTE TO TERRY HERBST BY BOBBY STEVENSON

The funeral service for DA councillor Terry Herbst was held in Port Elizabeth today (Thursday, 21 July).  Legislature Leader Bobby Stevenson paid tirbute to Herbst:

The Honourable Executive Mayor, Donald and family, the Rev George Irvine, members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislature, the Leader of the Democratic Alliance Metro Caucus, Leon De Villiers, Councillors, the provincial director of the DA, officials, other dignitaries and friends.

It is an honour and a privilege to pay tribute to Terry Herbst on behalf of the Democratic Alliance – a cause to which Terry was dedicated to right throughout his life from the days of the Progressive Party. My colleague Athol Trollip who cannot be with us today due to a critical meeting with the public protector described Terry as someone totally committed to public service.

When the issue of Terry’s age was raised with our national leader, Helen Zille, in relation to Terry seeking re-election she commented: “Some people are councillors who at fifty 50 should have retired at 45 and some councillors who are 80 are fit for another term. Helen is very sorry she cannot be here today. Terry and her are old friends and served on the Rand Daily Mail editorial team together. Of their relationship then, she commented to me last night as follows: “He was always warm and friendly to us Juniors.”

She went on further to say: “He was as passionate, energetic and driven then for his work and country as he was today.”

Terry had a great love of the written word. As an art critic on the Cape Times he holds a world record for the shortest review – he once reviewed a film entitled “The van der Merwes are coming to town”. The review consisted of one word: “Why?”.

In 1998 he published the Bhisho letters. Today there was a headline in The Herald entitled “How to save crumbling municipalities.”

An extract from Bhisho Letters – a letter to Max Mamase in 1995 when he was MEC for Local Government reads: “On tonight’s programme on TV1 about the local government elections in the Eastern Cape it was disclosed that the administration of Lady Frere had collapsed because of, amongst other things, a misuse of public funds. As a taxpayer, I would like to know how these funds were misused, and whether those responsible have been brought to justice.”

This is vintage Terry. He would go on and on and on ‘till he got answers. A copy of this book can be found in the library of Congress.

Terry was considering another book called the Metro Letters.

Terry was a fearless fighter for justice. He did not flinch from speaking truth to power. He was a vociferous anti-apartheid campaigner whose restaurant was the first in South Africa to open its doors to all the people. When fined for doing so he refused to sign an admission of guilt. He was not deterred by intimidation and threats, including a dead cat being hung up outside his door. He was responsible for getting our libraries open to all in the 1970’s and engaged in some clandestine activism by spraying out the Whites Only signs on the PE beachfront. In 1981 he stood in the Algoa constituency for the PFP in the then general election for parliament.

Terry was someone with great courage and the words of Bobby Kennedy on celebrating the life of the individual define Terry’s legacy and I quote:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he send forth a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Terry was someone who inspired hope, who stood up for an ideal, unafraid to raise his voice above the crowd. In our society today when many who should know better are cowered into silence. Terry’s example will always be a yardstick against which leaders should be measured.

The following words of Nelson Mandela are applicable to Terry:

“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die for.”

Terry’s wish came true –he died while in service fighting for a society in which there would be equal opportunity for all – rich or poor – black or white –Terry fought for you.

Our society is a lot poorer without Terry’s presence but we are that much richer for the legacy he leaves with us. Your memory and what you stood for will never be forgotten. To the family, Donald, sisters Polly and Lynette and niece Lesley, our deepest sympathies. LALA NGOXOLO