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ANC stalwart Aziz Pahad dies aged 82 – ‘A global player and freedom fighter’

ANC stalwart Aziz Pahad dies aged 82 – ‘A global player and freedom fighter’
Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa Aziz Pahad in 2012. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday World / Tsheko Kabasia)

A consummate diplomat and a resolute activist for justice. These are some of the descriptive tributes paid to honour former deputy foreign minister and anti-apartheid activist Aziz Pahad, who has died at the age of 82.

‘Aziz Pahad was a consummate diplomat not only in the service of our country but in support of causes for freedom”. This comment from President Cyril Ramaphosa is one of many tributes that have poured in in the wake of Wednesday evening’s announcement of the passing of the politician, who was born into a struggle family.

Pahad’s family announced his passing in a statement through the African National Congress (ANC) that read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Aziz Goolam Hoosein Pahad, during the evening of 27 September 2023, at the age of 82. A patriot, freedom fighter and servant of the people throughout his life. Pahad was a dedicated member of the ANC, a brilliant diplomat and strategist who served as Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister for International Relations from 1994 to 2008”.

Pahad fled South Africa in 1964 after the Rivonia Trial for the United Kingdom while maintaining a strong relationship with the ANC as an anti-apartheid activist. After two years, Pahad established an anti-apartheid movement in Europe.

Pahad was a member of ANC’s Revolutionary Council and Political Military Committee and one of the ruling party’s members who negotiated with the apartheid government after the ANC was unbanned.

Political tributes paid

In a statement, Ramaphosa acknowledged Pahad’s vast experience in international mobilisation against the apartheid regime saying, “Aziz Pahad was appointed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the dawn of our democracy and our reintegration into the global community”.

“Aziz Pahad was a consummate diplomat not only in the service of our country but in support of causes for freedom and justice elsewhere in the world, notably advocating the plight of the Palestinian people. Endearing of disposition and fierce of principle, he represented our nation with passion and clarity and played a significant role in educating the nation of our early democracy about international relations and South Africa’s role, place and vision in a world which itself was undergoing change at that time. May his soul rest in peace,” said Ramaphosa.

A statement from the Presiding Officers of Parliament said that Pahad was recognised as an activist who gave his all to the fight against apartheid and dedicated his life to the establishment of a democratic society in South Africa.” 

“Born into a family of anti-apartheid activists in 1940, Mr. Pahad’s early years were shaped by the crucible of resistance, becoming a resolute advocate for justice and a living embodiment of courage and conviction. In the face of apartheid regime-imposed bans and arrests, he stood unwavering, demonstrating fearless determination to challenge the oppressive apartheid system. 

“His life was characterised by a deep sense of responsibility to his fellow citizens and a profound belief in the cause of freedom. A committed patriot until the end, he devoted his entire existence to serving the people, epitomising the very essence of selflessness, empathy, humility and sacrifice. His unwavering commitment to the struggle against apartheid carried the flame of hope for millions who yearned for a democratic South Africa”, said Parliament.

Essop Pahad

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

Aziz Pahad’s brother Essop died three months ago aged 84, and his other brother, Junaid passed away just days before.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Essop Pahad dies – ‘He served SA with pragmatism, charm and a tongue that could lash severely’  

The Pahad brothers dedicated their lives to the struggle against apartheid from a very young age as members of the Transvaal Indian Congress. They went into exile and played a significant role in the ANC’s international call to free Nelson Mandela. In 1994, the Pahad brothers joined Mandela’s government in senior positions.

The Embassy of the State of Palestine tweeted:

The SACP paid tribute to its former member in a statement, saying that despite leaving the government, Pahad continued to serve the people in various ways. 

Opposition parties also paid tribute, with the EFF praising the late veteran for his distinctive ability to represent South Africa on the global stage.

The ANC  expressed its deepest condolences to the family after the announcement, confirming that Pahad leaves behind his wife Angina, brother, children, his granddaughter and extended family members.  

“He is also mourned by countless friends, comrades and colleagues, in South Africa and across the world”, read the statement.


Ramaphosa has declared that Pahad will be honoured with a Special Official Funeral Category 2 on Saturday, 30 September 2023, the Presidency said.

The South African Police Service will provide ceremonial elements during the service, which will begin at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg at 10am.

Ramaphosa directed that flags be flown at half-mast around the country until Saturday evening. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Remind me what he did for South Africa as a minister once he had finished struggling. The endorsement from the Palestinians says it all. Like all the ANC ministers he didn’t know what to do after choosing curtains for his office and of course a car. Or was it two.

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