By Gary Stewart
It was with great sadness that we heard of Bennie Rabinowitz’s untimely death earlier on this year on May 9. Bennie was a long term supporter of the Princess Vlei Forum and the campaign to stop the all development of the banks of the vlei.
He was a man of seeming contradictions, at once being a wealthy property developer, whilst also funding and actively campaigning to preserve numerous treasured public open spaces around Cape Town, including Princess Vlei. Notably, he was Chairperson of Seafront for All (SEAFA) which successfully campaigned to protect the Sea Point Pavilion from commercial development, and also funded the challenge to the Oudekraal development which preserved Muslim burial sites on the Atlantic seaboard.
Bennie supported the Princess Vlei campaign in the very early days, in particular providing legal support to challenge the city’s proposal to build the mall. His involvement was an essential driver in keeping the mall development at bay, whilst the campaign mobilised public support, putting political pressure on the city to eventually withdraw the mall development proposal.
As a young man he studied at UCT, and was award the very prestigious Rhodes scholarship to do postgraduate study at Oxford. Later in life he would use his affluent position which his education had afforded him to fund a number of students’ pursuit of higher education.
He was an early funder of the Weekly Mail, the pre-cursor of today’s Mail and Guardian newspaper, when such activity put him at odds with the dominant Apartheid state. As the society changed, he engaged the local political establishment, being unafraid to challenge them when he thought they went astray.
Bennie loved to invite members from his very wide circle of friends and associates to lunches at the Cape Town Press Club, or dinners a good local restaurant, particularly his beloved Mario’s in Green Point, and would happily chat about local gossip, civic issues and also the big social and political issues of the day. He took great pride in his social activism and had an undeniable generosity of spirit.
He could so very easily have spent his life in the bubble where many fortunate people find themselves. But he went beyond his comfortable life and actively sought to improve the lives of many around Cape Town in countless ways.
Bennie chose his own path. He chose to fully pursue the opportunities which life had accrued to him and then use his position to better understand the society around him, using the resources at his disposal to actively improve the society in a meaningful way.
Bennie’s was a life well lived. He is sorely missed.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.