Tony Trew, a man detained after fighting for South African rights, has been honoured for his life of service for the country.
Cape Town, South Africa – An old African proverb goes that when an old man dies a library burns down with him. This adage was not to be the case with National Order recipient of the Order of Luthuli and former Deputy Government Communication Information System (GCIS) CEO, Anthony “Tony” Trew.
Trew (Cape Town, 6 July 1941) is a South African politician and discourse analyst. He was one of the editors of the seminal book Language and control (1979), which helped establish critical linguistics as an academic field.
He obtained a BA in Political Theory from the University of Witwatersrand in 1962.
His overt political compromise against apartheid led to his being imprisoned from 1964 to 1965 for collaboration with noted activist Edward Joseph Daniels; at his release, he left the country for the United Kingdom, where he continued his studies at Oxford University. In 1970 he was appointed a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, where he taught logic, history of science and discourse analysis. He left the university in 1980 to hold a post as Director of Research at the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, where he would remain until 1991; in this position, he coordinated research on South Africa, as well as monitoring tasks in collaboration with political dissenters and NGOs.
He returned to South Africa in 1991 to work as senior researcher for the African National Congress, and in 1993 he was selected as research coordinator for the Elections Commission of the ANC. A year later he was transferred to the Office of the President as Director of Communications Research, a post he held until 1999. From 2002 he is Deputy CEO at the office of Strategy and Content Management.
On Thursday, Trew was bestowed the order by President Cyril Ramaphosa for his contribution to the attainment of democracy and to the reconstruction of a post-apartheid society. Describing Trew’s work, the Presidency said he served tirelessly and loyally.
“His linguistic prowess and meticulous application of language are imprinted in many dossiers of government where he served tirelessly and loyally,” the Presidency on his bestowal.
In a knowledge sharing session organised by his former professional home, GCIS, the revered politician and discourse analyst reflected on his life of service.
“I’ve been involved in research to do with communication and policy. I spent half my life outside the country like many others and then when I came back it was just before the election in 1994. At that point it seemed to me as it did to others that whatever skills you have you should bring into government as part of the reconstruction efforts,” said Trew.
After the Former Deputy CEO of GCIS left his stint at President Nelson Mandela’s office, he moved to GCIS.
“That was very interesting and exciting to be at the beginning of establishing a new and quite different communication system for government,” he said of work at the department.
Trew said during the establishment of the GCIS, the principal focus at that time was to make communication a part of development and reconstruction.
“During that time a lot of thinking was going on into the character of government’s communication. Central to this was to arm people with information to build their own lives in partnership with government,” he said.
Reflecting on his award, which was a successful nomination put forward by the GCIS -led by his former colleague and current Acting Director General Phumla Williams, Trew said he sees it more as a kind of recognition of his work.
“Work that doesn’t have a public profile but work that if done properly helps the life of a nation and helps progress,” he said.
Staying true to his love for research, Trew said he is working on an extended study based on the country’s elections since 1994.