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Essop Pahad dies – ‘He served SA with pragmatism, charm and a tongue that could lash severely’

Essop Pahad dies – ‘He served SA with pragmatism, charm and a tongue that could lash severely’
Former Minister in the Presidency and anti-apartheid acrivist Essop Pahad has passed on. (Photo: Gallo Images)

The ANC activist was a leading figure for decades in South Africa's political landscape and a staunch fighter in the battle against apartheid.

Essop Pahad has passed away, aged 84. The ANC struggle stalwart was the Minister in the Office of the Presidency in the Thabo Mbeki administration. He served between 1999 and 2008. According to his family spokesperson Dr Faizel Randera, Pahad died peacefully in his sleep early on Thursday.

His younger brother Junaid, passed away this past Saturday. 

Born on 21 June 1939, in Schweizer-Reneke in North West, he grew up in a family of political activists. His father Goolam Pahad was a leading member of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the South African Indian Congress.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, like his father before him, Essop joined the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC). He was part of the TIYC volunteers and was responsible for producing and distributing ANC pamphlets and posters in the 1960s. 

In 1962, Pahad was arrested for organising an illegal strike and in 1964, he was banned for five years and exiled. While in exile, he became more actively involved with the ANC and served in leadership structures of the party and then later of the South African Communist Party (SACP).

After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Pahad served as the Parliamentary Counsellor to then-deputy president Thabo Mbeki. 

Essop Pahad

Former minister in the presidency and anti-apartheid activist Essop Pahad. (Photo: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele)

He was appointed as Minister in the Presidency after the 1999 election, a prominent advisor to Mbeki.

But after Mbeki’s resignation as president in September 2008, Pahad submitted his resignation as minister. He launched a monthly publication, The Thinker.

In the year 2000, Pahad – a party loyalist – was accused of being involved in trying to pull the plug on a proposed inquiry into the Arms Deal, according to Andrew Feinstein in his book, After the Party. These allegations of corruption were denied by Pahad at the time.

During the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, former president Jacob Zuma indicated that he was introduced to the Guptas by Pahad. 

President Ramaphosa pays tribute

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his deep condolences to the late veteran’s family, friends and comrades.

“We mourn the passing of a veteran of our struggle, 65 years after he took his first revolutionary step of becoming a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress.

“Security crackdowns, banning and exile shaped Essop Pahad’s contribution over decades to our struggle and, as Parliamentary Counsellor to president Thabo Mbeki and Minister in the Presidency, to the early design and impact of our democratic state.” 

Former president Thabo Mbeki at the Nasrec expo centre, 16 December 2022. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

He said Pahad was a thinker and strategist who brought his understanding of the human condition, injustice and inequality at national and international levels to bear on the country’s transition to democracy while introducing a democratic, non-aligned and activist South Africa to the global community.

“He served our nation with pride, principle, pragmatism, and a charm that lived comfortably alongside a tongue that could lash severely at the right provocation.

“Amid the excessive demands of his public life, Essop Pahad was deeply devoted to his wife, Meg, and was a proud and doting father and grandfather, who is now sorely missed. May his soul rest in peace.”

The family statement read that Pahad was a dedicated and loving family man and leaves behind his wife, brothers, children, grandchildren, and extended family members.

Pahad was to be buried later on Thursday, 6 July, under Muslim rites at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg.  DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dave Gould says:

    Wow, so he was the guy who introduced Zuma to the Guptas, great legacy

  • Rory Short says:

    Essop Pahad, a veteran of the anti-Apartheid struggle, has passed away. May he rest in peace. We are in an era marked by the passing of struggle veterans. It is hard to think that they can be happy with the current results, incompetence, theft and corruption, of what they struggled for.

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