18/12/2017

Cables of courage

Blog / By ZAM Reporter
Image: Coen Stork visiting Chief Albert Luthuli in Natal, South Africa. Image: Coen Stork visiting Chief Albert Luthuli in Natal, South Africa.

The reports of Dutch former diplomat Coen Stork (1928 – 2017) of the 1964 Rivonia Trial challenged misconceptions about South African freedom fighters.

In October 2017, former Dutch diplomat Coen Stork passed away at age 89. In 1964 Stork was an observer at the Rivonia Trial in South Africa. The factual reports ('cables') he prepared for the Dutch Foreign Affairs office are testimony to a courageous and highly independent understanding of events. Stork did not take Apartheid propaganda for granted – as so many of his colleagues in those days did. He examined the vision and defence of Nelson Mandela and his co-accused in detail, challenging right wing perceptions of the freedom fighters as 'terrorists' by his and other Western governments.

A year before his passing, Stork decided to put together the cables and produce a book. The book was a limited series of 25 copies for his children and grandchildren, 'lest they forget.' ZAM also received a copy from which editor-in-chief Bart Luirink extensively quoted at a memorial for Coen Stork on the 3rd of November. “It's mandatory reading material for young diplomats who want to make a difference”, Luirink said. Due to a request by attendants at the memorial, ZAM has put the full PDF document, including Nelson Mandela's Statement from the Dock, online. Check it out here.

Note: the document is in Dutch and includes empty pages.

Read Bart Luirink's obituary for Coen Stork in De Groene Amsterdammer here (In Dutch).