Wise, big-hearted Alex Boraine and a legacy SA needs right now

By Alec Hogg

It is logical that South Africa’s religious leaders played such a key role in fighting apartheid. The warped social experiment’s very foundation was anathema to anyone who believes, as pastors do, that we are all created in God’s image. Their resistance from the pulpit carried the nation through its darkest times. Bullet holes in the walls and ceiling of Soweto’s Regina Mundi church are a reminder. So, too, is the life of Reverend Alex Boraine who passed away yesterday aged 87.

The youngest ever leader of the Methodist church in South Africa (elected in 1970, age 39), Oxford graduate Boraine dedicated his life to his fellows. After the ministry and a short spell kickstarting labour transformation at Anglo American, he was elected as a Progressive Federal Party MP in 1974. A dozen years later he was the only one to follow leader Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert out of the House – he found IDASA and open white dialogue with the banned ANC through the famous trip to Dakar. The duo accurately assessed they could serve the South Africa better from outside Parliament than in it.

Boraine is an inspiration. Not just because of his role alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Or the many times he shared the South African miracle with others elsewhere facing similar challenges. Not through the achievements of his remarkable children. Or his brutally honest writing, including the prescient 2014 book What’s Gone Wrong: On the Brink of a Failed State.

A statement from the family said they will remember Boraine for his wisdom, passion for life and big heart. For the rest of us, he bestows a legacy that highlights the benefit of resilience, a refusal to throw in the towel despite overwhelming odds. And a steadfast belief that the forces of darkness can and will be defeated. Rest In Peace Alex Boraine. Let your life of service be an inspiration to a nation which sorely needs it right now.