/ 6 July 2023

ANC stalwart Essop Pahad dead at 84

Essop Pahad. File photo

Former minister in the presidency and anti-apartheid activist Essop Pahad has died at the age of 84. 

“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,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a tribute to Pahad on Thursday morning. 

Ramaphosa expressed his “deep condolences to the family, friends and comrades of the late veteran”. 

Pahad was appointed minister in the presidency when former president Thabo Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela in 1999. Before that, he served as the parliamentary counsellor to Mbeki, who was then the deputy president. 

Pahad left the presidency shortly after the resignation of Mbeki in 2008.

Speaking to the Mail & Guaridan after he resigned, Pahad expressed his grievance against the ANC’s decision to axe Mbeki as head of state. 

”For a number of us it is a special and emotional and sad moment now that we are leaving. I did not agree with the decision, it was profoundly unjust. I feel aggrieved by the decision that the NEC [national executive committee] took, so I couldn’t continue to serve as a cabinet member or as a member of parliament. In my view it could have been dealt with differently. I’m looking for a job from tomorrow.” 

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation is yet to react to Pahad’s death.  

Pahad grew up in a family of political activists. His father was Goolam Pahad, a leading member of the South African Indian Congress, and his brother Aziz Pahad, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs, was accused, along with Mbeki, for having links to the Gupta family.

In a 2016 statement by Mbeki’s foundation, the former president denied having any links to the Guptas. But the statement does confirm that Ajay Gupta served on the board of the economic advisory body, the International Marketing Council (IMC) on the recommendation of Pahad, who was then the minister in the presidency. 

“Mr Ajay Gupta joined the board of the then IMC by agreement of the board on the recommendation of then minister in the presidency Essop Pahad, who rightly or wrongly thought that he [Ajay Gupta] had the skills, knowledge and capacity to facilitate the work of the Council — not because of his alleged proximity to the president,” read the statement. 

In his statement on Thursday, Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude for Pahad’s service to the nation on a national and global level. 

“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,” said Ramaphosa.