/ 28 September 2023

Aziz Pahad, an architect of the anti-apartheid movement, has died

Aziz Pahad
Aziz Pahad died on Wednesday evening. (Photo: Henghameh Fahhimi/AFP)

Struggle veteran, former deputy international relations minister and author Aziz Goolam Hoosein Pahad died in Johannesburg at the age of 82.

His death was announced on behalf of his family by the ANC, the party which he joined in the 1950s and on whose national executive committee he served for more than 20 years.

The ruling party described Pahad as a brilliant diplomat and strategist and as “a patriot, freedom fighter and servant of the people throughout his life”, saying that it joined thousands of comrades and friends at home and abroad in mourning his death.

Pahad joined the ANC along with his older brother, Essop, while a student, and went into exile in 1964 after the Rivonia trial at which Nelson Mandela and others were jailed for life.

Pahad spent several decades in the liberation movement’s international relations division and played a key role in the campaign to isolate the apartheid state through sanctions.

During this time he acted as one of the architects of the international anti-apartheid movement, working with activists from countries around the world to both build support for the liberation movement and to impose cultural, economic and military sanction on the National Party regime.

On his return to South Africa, Pahad continued in his diplomatic role, serving as a deputy minister from 1994 under presidents  Mandela and Thabo Mbeki until he resigned from the cabinet and parliament after the recall of the latter.

During his diplomatic career Pahad was central to building South Africa’s international profile and relationships in the post-apartheid era; helped guide its participation in multilateral forums and develop its non-aligned foreign policy stance, which it maintains today.

After his resignation from parliament, Pahad continued to serve South Africa and in 2014 was appointed as envoy to Palestine, whose cause he championed throughout his life, by then president Jacob Zuma.

Pahad was appointed to a foreign policy review commission, which raised the need for South Africa to play a more active role in international affairs, by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In 2014, Pahad, a jovial man with a mischievous sense of humour, published a memoir, Insurgent Diplomat, which dealt with his life in the forefront of the ANC’s international campaign.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Pahad’s life had been characterised by a “deep sense of responsibility to his fellow citizens and a profound belief in the cause of freedom”.

“We are grateful to Mr Pahad and many diplomats who worked very hard to ensure that South Africa plays a meaningful role in deeping global diplomacy and cooperation,” he said.

Details of his funeral and memorial services will be announced on Thursday.