– a 90-minute feature documentary
TRUE PATRIOT – the pilot can be viewed at:
During the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, John Harris – [no relation to the Producer / Director of this documentary] – one of a total of 2 949 people executed for opposing the regime – was the only
white person to be hanged for fighting Apartheid.
A teacher by profession, John Harris was Chairman of SANROC – the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee – an organization fighting racism in sport in South Africa in the 1960s.
In 1963 his efforts in lobbying the International Olympic Committee were successful and South Africa’s “all-white” teams were banned from the Tokyo Olympics of 1964.
A member of the clandestine & all white" African Resistance Movement [ARM], John Harris was left the “last man standing” after a nation-wide crack-down by Apartheid security police on the 4th July 1964 saw all members of ARM either detained or fleeing the country. Married to Ann – with a son only six weeks old, in a final desperate statement against Apartheid, on 24th July 1964 John Harris placed a bomb on a “Whites only” platform at the Johannesburg Station.
To avoid casualties, Harris telephoned an urgent warning to two major newspaper offices and the Railway Police instructing them to immediately clear the concourse of all commuters. In spite of Harris’ warnings, the authorities did nothing to clear the station and the explosion left twenty-three injured and one dead.
On 1st April 1965, at 5.30am, John Harris – aged 27 – softly singing “We Shall Overcome”, was executed by hanging in Pretoria. “True Patriot” – a 90-minute intimate docu/drama feature – tells the remarkable & little-known story of the life & times of John Harris & those closest to him.
In the process, the narrative reveals the remarkable backstory of Lynn Ballen-Harris – the hidden & unknown daughter of John & Ann Harris, given up for adoption at birth in 1961 – & her passionate quest to identify & find her birth-parents & family on discovery – at age 25, in 1984 – of her adoption.
The life-journeys of John Harris and his forsaken daughter Lynn Ballen-Harris are finally requited in the resolution of the documentary with the fulfilment of John Harris’ modest last request before his execution.
John Harris’ last wish on the way to the gallows was that one day in a future liberated democratic South Africa, the inscription on his tombstone should read: “John Harris – True Patriot”. It took 44 years for his wish to be fulfilled and Lyn Ballen-Harris was there – reunited with her family – to witness the fulfilment of John Harris’ final request.
At a ceremony held at Freedom Park, Pretoria in 2009, John Harris’ name was officially entered into the “roll of honour” of those who sacrificed their lives fighting against Apartheid. After the ceremony, Lynn-Ballen Harris together with family & close friends moved to his grave-side in Pretoria where his tombstone was inscribed,
“John Harris – True Patriot”.
This is their story.