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Teacher Des Francis met Nelson Mandela and fled South Africa to Zambia
TRIBUTES to a former Southampton teacher who died in a car accident have been led by his family.
Dasingee Francis, who was known as Des, was described as a well- known character who had spent many years at St Denys and Tanner’s Brook school before becoming a supply teacher in the city.
Des, 76, a grandfather of four of Southcliff Road, Southampton, died after a suffering a ruptured artery while driving as he was visiting family in Yorkshire.
His teaching career began in South Africa – where he was born in the Malay Camp slum of Johannesburg and where he became heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement.
He became a member of the SA Indian Congress, a group affiliated with the African National Congress – the party led by Nelson Mandela, who Des met twice.
Just as he was about to embark on training with the ANC to take part in sabotage campaigns Des was linked to the discovery of a press on which he had been printing anti-government leaflets and subsequently his name was put on a “banned” list of people dangerous to the government.
As a result he began teaching in neighbouring Zambia where he met his wife Mary, who was originally from Southampton. Along with Mary’s daughter Pippa the couple went on to have two sons Shunmugum and Krishna.
While visiting his family in South Africa Des was arrested for crimes against the state kept in solitary confinement for 400 days and tortured, before Mary successfully campaigned for his release.
The couple then moved back to Southampton where Des continued his teaching career before retiring.
His son Krishna, 40, said his father would be remembered in the city by those he taught.
“He very much took the children he taught to his heart. He made everything in life a lesson and often used the children’s experiences, some of whom he came to know well.”
Krishna said his father could often be spotted driving around his beloved 2CV with cuddly toys attached to the bumper.
Des also enjoyed visiting the local tip where he could be found trying to salvage things that “might be useful one day.”
Friends and family are due to gather for his funeral at 3pm on January 14 at Southampton Crematorium.
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