Des’s battle with Apartheid

Dasingee Francis
Dasingee Francis

The fascinating history of the man who died in a Halifax road accident has been told by his son.

Dasingee Francis, 76, was South African and involved in the freedom struggle of its people.

He was jailed for his belief that all people are born equal and deserve due respect.

He shared those beliefs with Nelson Mandela who he had twice met and who died the same month.

Mr Francis died on December 23 when he was at the wheel of a VW Polo and suffered a severing of the main thoracic aorta which caused him to die instantly.

His friend in the car, Otto Zeiner, of Hebden Bridge, suffered a fractured vertebrea.

Two people in an Audi were slightly injured.

Mr Francis, lived in Southampton and was visiting his son, Krishna Francis, daughter-in-law Lydia and grandchildren Henry and Mia.

The family live at Todmorden and previously lived at Hebden Bridge and Mr Francis had many friends locally and was well known in the Quaker community.

Mr Francis was driving to Halifax to buy decorating materials when tragedy struck.

He was born in Malay Camp, a slum area of Johannesburg in 1937.

In 1948 the South African government introduced the racial segregation law Apartheid.

Krishna said the charm of his father was the ironic quality to his life.

He worked for the government as a teacher whilst fighting to end the regime that was paying him.

As a member of the SA Indian Congress - a part of the African National Congress - Mr Francis was put on a “banned” list of people dangerous to the government for printing anti-government leaflets.

He was in London on ANC business when he got news he was no longer able to return home.

He took a teaching job in Zambia to be close to his homeland and that is where he met his wife, Mary.

But, that move proved unsafe. He was arrested at the border of Zambia and Rhodesia and sent to South Africa for his “crimes.”

He was kept in solitary confinement and tortured during his imprisonment.

“He was put in jail for 400 days and just disappeared. Nobody knew where he was,” said Krishna.

“Our mum had to fight to get him released.”

Eventually, Mr Francis and Mary moved to Southampton to be nearer her family and settled down to raise three children.

In 1990 an amnesty on political activists was declared and Mr Francis was able to vist his homeland once more.

Krishna said on the morning he died he had talked of meeting Mandela while he was in hiding, working as a bin man, and hadn’t recognised the future president.

“My father shouted at him for being so rude as he charged out of a doorway.”

Mr Francis was raised a Hindu but his ANC activities shifted his values towards communism.

Krishna, a film maker, said his father had always carried a camera and would stop and talk to anybody.

“Whether on a local or international level he was keen to make the world better for coming generations,” said Krishna.