Dr Melville Edelstein
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Dr Melville Edelstein

Dr Melville Leonard Edelstein (1919--June 16, 1976) was born to Nachum and Rose Edelstein in King William's Town. His Litvak parents had first travelled to the UK and then Cape Town in 1896 before joining the masses of "boere-Jode" [Afrikaner or farmer Jews] where his parents had settled and Nachum started and ran a successful business.[1]


Dr. Edelstein was a sociologist and respected academic and had devoted his efforts to humanitarian and social welfare projects in Soweto. Serving as Deputy Chief Welfare Officer, Dr Edelstein instituted many projects aimed at assisting youth, disabled, poor and marginalized communities within Soweto, where he worked for some 18 years. A practicing orthodox Jew, Melville Edelstein was apolitical & dedicated to serving the good of mankind. He was also a pacifist who refused to enlist for World War II.[2] While employed as a social worker for the Welfare Section of the Non-European Affairs Department, which fell under the City of Johannesburg, he showed great concern for the people of Soweto, where he served for 18 years.[3][4]


Dr Edelstein was one of the two white men who died in the Soweto uprising of 16 June 1976. Dr Melville Edelstein was brutally slain by a crowd of enraged students in Soweto on June 16, 1976.[5][6]

Earlier on the fateful morning, he greeted students as they passed his offices on Mputhi Street. However once the shock of the police shooting spread through their ranks, high spirits turned to anger, and Dr Edelstein was killed for being a white official in the wrong place at the wrong time. That morning, Dr Edelstein was hosting the official opening for a branch of his Sheltered Workshop Programme in Orlando East, designed to provide employment for disabled people. When news of the student protests reached the project, the ceremony was brought to a hurried end as dignitaries and workers were ferried out of the township.[7][8][9] Concerned about the safety of a woman colleague, - Pierette Jacques, back at the Youth Centre in Youth Centre in Jabavu - Dr Edelstein drove through crowds of gathering students to get to her office. Edelstein then rushed through the offices, instructing staff to leave immediately.[10]

While there an angry mob broke into the building and stoned him to death. Reporter Peter Magubane later found his body with a note saying "Beware Afrikaans is the most dangerous drug for our future." The reporter said, "If they'd known who he was, this would never have happened."[11]


  1. ^ "16 June '76: Tragic day for a great SA Jew". South African Jewish Report. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "2013 - Remembering Dr Melville Edelstein - the life & death of a Good Man Free Download Video MP4 3GP M4A - TubeID.Co". TubeID.Co. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "16 June '76: Tragic day for a great SA Jew". South African Jewish Report. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "SAPA - 23 Jul 96 - DAUGHTER APPEALS TO WITNESSES TO EDELSTEIN". www.justice.gov.za. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "SAPA - 23 Jul 96 - TRUTH BODY WRAPS UP JUNE 16 HEARINGS IN SOWETO". www.justice.gov.za. Retrieved .
  6. ^ "16 June '76 - Remember Dr Melville Edelstein - the life & death of a good man | Kevin Harris Productions". www.kevinharris.co.za. Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Truth Commission - Special Report - Volume 2, Chapter 4". sabctrc.saha.org.za. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "Dr.Melville Edelstein - praag.org". praag.org. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Leander (2013-05-21). "The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising". South African History Online. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Leander (2013-05-21). "The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising". South African History Online. Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Dr. Melville Edelstein and South Africa's 1976 Soweto uprising". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved .

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