Tributes pour in unionist and academic Dr Dennis George

Dennis George speaking at the Celebration and Commemorative book launch at The Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rosebank in 2018. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

Dennis George speaking at the Celebration and Commemorative book launch at The Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rosebank in 2018. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

Published May 17, 2023


Cape Town - Tributes and condolence messages have been pouring in after the death on Monday evening of former trade unionist, activist and academic Dr Dennis George.

George, 65, was born in Cape Town in 1958 at The Akkers, which later became a white area called Goodwood.

He leaves behind his wife Natalie, children Dennis jr, Caleb and Liezel.

For many years, George was general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa).

George was a marketing consultant at Sanlam when he was recruited by the Transport and Allied Trade Union to work as an organiser. He was later appointed General Secretary of Fedusa in 1998 after serving in other roles in the federation.

In their message of condolence Fedusa paid tribute to George and said he left behind “a legacy of commitment to workers’ rights throughout his career in the labour movement in South Africa and beyond.”

Fedusa said George’s tenure as General Secretary for over 20 years was categorised by many victories for workers which manifested in the growth of the federation.

The tribute said: “During his tenure as general secretary of Fedusa, he was always eager to form working relationships with business, government, other unions and the media fraternity.

“A dedicated activist at heart, he had always called for all major stakeholders to increase their participation in schemes aimed at addressing national, company and shop-floor level issues for the sake of the country’s economic growth.”

In its message, Cosatu said George played an instrumental role in shaping the labour market arena after the 1994 elections, and never shied away from speaking his mind.

Then Fedusa general secretary Dennis George at a briefing in Joburg on the state of water in the country in 2010. File Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

“He was a formidable trade unionist who contributed immensely to building and shaping the post-1994 labour market landscape. He believed in education and that the nation should invest in skills development to reduce unemployment.”

The message from Cosatu highlighted George’s belief in lifelong education and the fact that he earned a doctorate well into his years as general secretary with his dissertation on how social dialogue could be used to improve the lives of the working class.

At the time of his death, George was an independent non-executive director of AYO Technology Solutions (AYO). Among those who paid tribute was Sekunjalo Group of Companies chairman Dr Iqbal Survé.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I inform you that my dear friend, colleague, activist, revolutionary, confidant and wonderful comrade Dr Dennis George passed away peacefully [Monday] night.

“My thoughts are with his wife, Natalie, children Dennis jr, Caleb, Liezel and the family. May they have much strength though this very difficult time. May Dennis’s soul rest in peace,” he said.

George was among others who joined a class action about arbitrary termination of banking relationships against any client of their choice.

The action by Joburg law firm Gardee Godrich Attorneys was brought on behalf of clients who want to intervene as complainants in a class action in the proceedings instituted by the Sekunjalo Group of Companies’ executive chairman and others which has been dubbed a “David and Goliath” fight.

Leader of the provincial opposition (ANC) Cameron Dugmore said: “Dennis George was a giant in the trade union movement and participated with distinction at Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) and in Global forums.

“Always practical and a consensus seeker who stuck to his principles. His untimely passing is a huge loss to our country.”

George was also the founding director of African Quartz where he was described as “A versatile, hands-on director, he played a key role in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) with the successful negotiations of the framework agreement for a sustainable mining sector in 2013”

Shortly after the financial crisis of November 2008, George was part of Team South Africa in facilitating the achievement of higher inclusive economic growth and employment creation.

Team South Africa engaged with Standard & Poor and Fitch and Moody agencies at the request of the National Treasury to restore the investment ratings of the country. Dr George has a master’s degree and a doctorate in the Management of Technology and Innovation.

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