Goldberg was born in Cape Town in 1933 to two British activists who became active in the SACP soon after settling in Cape Town. His mother was once arrested along with him during a state of emergency.
At the age of 16, he went on to study engineering at the University of Cape Town. He was an active member of the Congress of Democrats, an organisation that had links to the ANC. He was also an active member of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the ANC’s military arm.
Goldberg was tried on treason charges in the Pretoria Supreme Court along with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and others in the Rivonia Trial. The marathon trial ran from June 1963 to October 1964. Goldberg was accused of ‘campaigning to overthrow the Government by violent revolution and for assisting an armed invasion of the country by foreign troops’ under the Sabotage and Suppression of Communism Acts.
The charge sheet listed 193 acts of sabotage allegedly carried out by persons recruited by the accused in their capacity as members of the High Command of uMkhonto we Sizwe.
Goldberg was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in Pretoria Local Prison. From the time of his arrest, Goldberg spent a total of 22 years in prison before being released in 1985, according to the Denis Goldberg Legacy Foundation Trust’s website.
After he was released in 1985 he moved to London and continued his work as an anti-apartheid activist. He returned to South Africa in 2002 and was appointed special adviser to Ronnie Kasrils, then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, until 2004.
“After the first non-racial elections in South Africa Goldberg founded the development organisation Community H.E.A.R.T. in London in 1995 to help to improve the living standards of black South Africans. With the support of German friends, he established Community H.E.A.R.T. e.V. in Essen in Germany in 1996. He was involved in the early days of Computer Aid International in London, and is now CAI’s Patron and Ambassador,” the foundation wrote.
The primary objective of the Denis Goldberg Legacy Foundation Trust, which was established in 2015, is to contribute to a better life for the children and youth of Hout Bay, where Goldberg has lived for the last 15 years.
Goldberg was passionate about uplifting the community and despite his battle with cancer, he was able to witness the realisation of his vision for a facility where youth could “sing together, dance together, make poetry together,” as he told the UCT Alumni Magazine in 2018.
The Denis Goldberg House of Hope (DGHOH), an arts and culture education centre for Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg youth, finally received the necessary permission from the City of Cape Town late in 2019.