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Lives that will be remembered

Opinion Piece

Three deaths, Peter Ellis, Chester Williams and Robert Mugabe, provided a sad footnote to a week in which the news cycle was dominated by convulsions in Britain and major government policy announcements here.

Ellis’s death comes as he was awaiting one final chance to clear his name, with an appeal to the Supreme Court scheduled to be heard in two months.

His conviction for sexual abuse of children at the Christchurch Civic Creche in 1993, based on evidence given by young children, has been one of the most questioned in New Zealand’s judicial history.

Dunedin author Lynley Hood, author of A City Possessed — who researched the case for seven years — has said she could not find a shred of evidence of Ellis’s guilt.

There is now legal debate about whether the appeal could still go ahead.

There is a sad aspect to the death of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe in a Singapore hospital at the age of 95.

Mugabe was a hero to black Africans as he led the fight against the white minority government of Ian Smith.

Imprisoned by the government, he fled to Mozambique where he formed the guerrilla movement that finally overthrew the Smith regime.

Initially Mugabe did good things like improving health care and education for blacks, but he steadily regressed to become a ruthless dictator over the 37 years he was in power, ruining the once rich country’s economy.

It is a sad irony of history that he probably ended up doing more harm to blacks than the oppressive government he replaced.

Chester Williams was another kind of pioneer in the fight against apartheid but he did his work on the rugby field.

Williams, who died at the age of just 49 of a heart attack, was one of the first black players to be selected for the Springboks — who he was a winger for from 1993 to 2000. Most notably he played in the 1995 Rugby World Cup which South Africa won and which South African president Nelson Mandela used brilliantly as part of his campaign to bring reconciliation to the country. Williams was an icon in more ways than one.