About Raymond Suttner

Raymond Suttner, based in Johannesburg, is a scholar and social and political analyst.  He was actively involved in the liberation struggle against apartheid, both in legal political activities and illegal underground work.  He served two periods of imprisonment and after release in 1988 was under house arrest, totalling 11 years.

At one point he was in the leadership of the African National Congress, South African Communist Party and the United Democratic Front.  From the period of the rise of Jacob Zuma to ANC and state presidency Suttner was in disagreement with the directions taken by the ANC/SACP alliance and the ANC-led government.  Although not having campaigned for Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency, Suttner has adopted an approach of critical support, in order to contribute towards outcomes that may advance democratic recovery.

As a scholar, Suttner has held positions at seven South African universities.  He is no longer involved in formal teaching, but  remains an emeritus professor at the University of South Africa.

Suttner holds BA, LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town and completed an inter-disciplinary PhD (history, sociology and political studies) at the University of the Witwatersrand.  In 2007 he was awarded a D.Litt Honoris causa from the Netaji Subhas Open University in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, for contribution to the development of higher education.

In 1969 Suttner prepared a Master of Laws (LLM) thesis for presentation to the University of Cape Town. The work drew on the writings of Professor Jack Simons, the leading authority in African customary law.  Simons was a “listed” Communist and under the laws at the time he could not be quoted. The supervisor, Professor Donald Molteno QC advised Suttner that he could not allow the thesis to be presented with quotations from Simons, infringing the law of the time. Suttner withdrew the work, rather than using Simons’s works without acknowledgement.

In 2017, the UCT law faculty approached Suttner and asked him whether he would be prepared to re-submit the work.  That was done and it was examined and approved.  He was awarded the degree on 13 December 2018

Suttner’s research interests  include politics, history, sociology, gender and sexuality, law, criminology, questions related to identity and representation, interpreting the lives and legacies of Nelson Mandela and Chief Albert Luthuli and examining threats to South African democracy and emancipatory routes towards recovering and enhancing the democratic promise of 1994.

He has published Inside Apartheid’s Prison, 2001 (UKZN press and Ocean Press, which was runner up for the Alan Paton prize), The ANC Underground, 2008 (Jacana, and 2009, Lynne Rienner). Together with Jeremy Cronin he wrote 30 Years of the Freedom Charter (Ravan Press and Ohio University Press, 1986), banned for possession by the apartheid government and 50 Years of the Freedom Charter, 2006 (UNISA Press) and Recovering Democracy in South Africa was published by Jacana media in 2015, with a US edition published in hardback by Lynne Rienner.  Inside Apartheid’s Prison was reissued in 2017, with a new introduction reflecting on political choices leading to Suttner pursing his political convictions outside of the ANC and SACP

Apart from over 85 articles in academic journals, Suttner presented the TB Davie Memorial Lecture at the University of Cape Town, in 1984, published as a booklet entitled, The Freedom Charter-the People’s Charter in the Nineteen Eighties.  He also delivered the Harold Wolpe memorial lecture in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in 2005, subsequently published in Development Southern Africa, leading to  articles debating his ideas.

Currently Suttner writes a regular column for Creamer Media’s website: polity.org.za and is interviewed on video on current issues. These are found on the Polity website and YouTube. Almost all the articles are reprinted in the Daily Maverick and enca.com and many  of these-published up till 2015- appeared in revised form in Recovering Democracy in South Africa, mentioned above.

Suttner is interested in music -western classical, Indian classical, choral music of various types, jazz, folk music, African American spirituals and songs of liberation struggles. He is interested in art and other cultural activities.

He follows a regular daily exercise ‘regime’ including aerobics, stretch exercises and mindfulness based meditation.


These entries are posted in order to evoke debate.  All items may be freely distributed by individuals and non-profit groups.  In the case of commercial publication, standard fees applicable to the publication are required and are negotiable with the author, who can be contacted at raymond@suttner.co.za.

49 thoughts on “About Raymond Suttner

      • There was another Ray Suttner from East london in South Africa, who died about 8 years ago. My cousin. He may have been there because he was studying business studies or management

      • Dear Prof. Suttner, thank you for information, and sad to hear that he is gone. He must have been 60 or 61 years old now ….

        Kind regards, Mitra

      • I last saw him around 1993. I reckon he died about 2000 or so. His daughter Kirsty Suttner Stride is on Facebook if you are on FB and want to find out the information. I did not know him so well but he seemed very decent and at times they mixed us up and he did not mind being confused with an insurrectionist, which I was around the late 80s early 90s

  1. Dear Prof. Suttner, we are international students studying in Ohio 1970-71 and now are looking for old friends to get together for a reunion in 2014. We had Ray Suttner in our group from South Africa… amazing so similar to your name.
    Thank you for your reply and Happy Thanksgiving..

  2. Dear Prof. Suttner, from what I read about you, you are amazing person… please let me know if you are coming to Sweden. It would be wonderful to meet you.

    • Hi Mia. I am not amazing, but someone who tries to act according to what I think is right. I am open to coming to Sweden but it will only happen if there is some or other conference where I speak.

      • Please let me know what kind of conference you wish to intend, what subjects you wish to discuss, perhaps can have a book launch for one of your books… Would be great to meet you. Mitra

      • Maybe we should know more about one another. Perhaps you could send an email and we can discuss. In the past I have been the guest of the Nordic Africa Institute and I was ambassador to Sweden from 1997-2001. Are you on Facebook? If so, we can send internal message with e mails there. I am not so keen on putting my e mail out here, though it is probably on google.

  3. Dear Professor Suttner, could you please email me in connection with the Civil Rights League. Thank you, Brandon Broll

  4. Hi Raymond, I am one of your old law students ( University of Natal Durban) and enjoy your articles. I am so pleased that you have not compromised your principles and independence. Regards, Graham Theunissen

  5. Dr Suttner’s disagreement with the decisions made by the ANC led alliance are informed by the number of reasons, firstly he knows very well what he wants to happen/see and he doesn’t see. He was an anti apartheid activist in different capacities and all the perspectives driving him to view the alliance in th way the he is viewing it are informed by knowledge, passion and desire to see the poor gaining the proper gains of democracy, and realising the freedom charter’s main objectives. Academics have a broader role to play in influencing the government and especial the progressive academicians, and scholars of different academic disciplines driven by an objective to move this country forward.


  7. I have been quietly following your political teachings and analysis on tv and social media and I’m becoming a better person almost every time in terms of how I used to analyse….thanks ever so much and I hope I’m not the only one getting fee less tuition.

  8. Hi Raymond,

    I have just read your article on Chief Albert Luthuli. I not only enjoyed reading it; I found it moving and I wanted to let you know. Thanks for keeping it going. The struggle that is. We are certainly living in uncertain but interesting times and I have a feeling that we are getting to the point of a general sense of outrage at what has happened to our movement. To say nothing of our hopes and ideals.

    I hope all is well with you and Nomboniso. If you are ever in the vicinity of George (perhaps a bit prosaic considering all the sexy places you get invited to), would love to see you!

    Kind regards

  9. Hello Professor Suttner,

    I am a visiting researcher at Wits and looking to get in touch with you to conduct a research interview for a paper I am writing on South Africa’s “Two Chinas Problem” in the 1990s. If you can email me I will provide more information regarding the study. Thank you for your assistance. Best,

    • Dear Christopher Williams. Thank you for your enquiry. I am no longer working in that area and I am reluctant to give research interviews -unless precisely related to my current work- because of constraints on time. Regards

  10. Greetings,

    I am a Canadian-born writer and researcher presently based in Luxembourg. My current research centres around social memory in South Africa. I will be heading to South Africa soon and would be interested in interviewing you.

    Would this be something you would be open to? What is the best way to contact you?

    Thank you for considering my inquiry.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,



    • Thank you for your interest in my work. Unfortunately I have health and economic constraints that limit the time that I have. Consequently I am more or less restricting myself to my academic duties as well as income generating writing and interviewing. Sorry about that. Regards Raymond Suttner

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  13. Hi Ray
    Doubt if you’ll remember me. I was a student of yours way back in 1973/4 at UND. Just read your piece published in the Daily Maverick. Very sad how the current gentlemen running the ANC have turned out. But the wheel turns thanks to people like yourself.
    Ed Mousley

    • Hi. I do remember you. Good to be in contact again. Things are not looking good right now. Not sure how soon wheels will turn. I have some health constraints that limit what I can do -fibromyalgia -in some ways related to torture. Are you practicing law? Regards Ray

  14. Dear Prof Suttner, I am the future daughter in law of Prof. John Dugard, will you be at your book launch at Bluebird as I would love to get a copy for John thank you Ingrid Reichman

    • Dear Ingrid. Thank you for making contact. Yes I will be launching the book at Bluebird and will be happy to see you and know that John will get a copy. Please send him my warm greetings. Regards Raymond Suttner

      • Hi Raymond. We were in Israel together in 62. Last time I saw you we spent the day watching Dennis Lindsay hitting a great 200. How’s the asthma ? Symbicort is my saviour.
        So much water under the bridge and I have always followed your life with huge admiration.
        I have lived in london for 45 years now.
        All the very best, it would be great to meet up one day
        David Landau ( ex zim)

  15. De Lille saga reveals how DA stacks up against the ANC today – Suttner - Investing Matters

  16. Good day Prof.: is it not time that an Ombudsman is created for the Private Security Industry. There are more or less 4 x more PSI guards than SAPS officers in SA and the PSI grew at a rapid pace.

    • I do not know what is best way of dealing with it. There is a PSI regulatory authority but not sure what they do and SAPS is in some respects prepared to allow private security to enter their domain. I think this is very dangerous and that there needs to be closer monitoring and in fact strengthening SAPS as well as community policing that is carefully regulated

  17. My sister married Monty Suttner, my brother was Mandela’s doctor, Percy Yutar’s son stayed with me in Cincinnati, my uncle Sakkie wrote books on South Africa, “Small world.”

    • Thank you for making contact. There were two Monty Suttners or at least one has passed on. I am related to both. Your uncle “Sakkie’ was one of the most famous anthropologists of all time and I have used his work a lot insofar as I used to specialise in African customary law.

  18. Dear Prof. Suttner,

    I hope this message finds you well. I am reaching out to you to let you know about my newly published book, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in South Africa. You will find your own book, The ANC Underground, cited in it, and I think you would find interesting. Please note that I am not sending this for commercial purposes, but in solidarity and gratitude for your contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle.
    A Luta Continua,

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