South Africa
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Anti-apartheid activist and former deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim dies

Anti-apartheid activist and former deputy minister of international relations Ebrahim Ebrahim has died at the age of 84.

The cause of his death remains unclear at this stage, but it’s understood he had been battling illness for a long time at home.

Dozens of people have paid tribute to the late activist on social media as news of his death spreads.

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Neeshan Boltan tweeted: “Another giant of the liberation struggle has fallen. Condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Ebilrahim Ebrahim.”

The ANC statement on Ebrahim’s passing described him as a long-standing party member, who served his country in different capacities with humility, dedication and distinction.

“The ANC has learned with deep sadness of the passing of comrade Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim after a long illness at his home in Johannesburg. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife Shannon, and their children Sarah and Caden, as well as their extended family, friends and comrades,” said the party in a statement.

Background

Ebrahim was born 1 July 1937 in Durban and was the second of five children.

He joined the liberation movement as a youth activist in 1952, and through the National Indian Congress (NIC) participated in the Congress of the People Campaign, which drew up and adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955.

He was an active campaigner during the 1950s.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Ebrahim joined the party’s military wing, uMkhonto We Sizwe in 1961.

He was arrested in 1963 and charged under the sabotage act with 18 other accused in the Pietermaritzburg Sabotage Trial. He was sentenced to 15 years on Robben Island.

In 1979, Ebrahim was released from prison, banned from political activities and ordered to remain in his Durban home.

In 1980, Ebrahim went into exile, operating from the frontline states bordering South Africa.

In December 1986, he was kidnapped from Swaziland by the South African Security Forces and detained in South Africa where he was severely tortured.

He was charged with high treason and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Robben Island.

In 1991, the appeal court ruled that his kidnapping from a foreign country was illegal and the South African court had no jurisdiction to try him.

He was subsequently released from prison in early 1991 and subsequently elected to the national executive committee of the ANC.

Ebrahim also participated in the Codesa negotiations, after which he was elected as a member of Parliament (MP) in 1994.

In August 1997, he became the chairperson of the foreign affairs committee and was also a member of the joint select committee on intelligence.

By July 2002, Ebrahim resigned from Parliament to take up the position of the senior political and economic advisor to the then deputy president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.

“Since 2002 Comrade Ebi was actively involved in conflict resolution efforts between Israel and Palestine, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as in Burundi, Kosovo, Bolivia, and Nepal,” said the ANC.

In 2006, he was appointed as head of international affairs at the ANC head office.

In May 2009, he was appointed as deputy minister of International relations and cooperation, a position he carried out with diligence until 2017.

His official biography, Ebrahim Ebrahim, A Gentle Revolutionary, was penned by his wife Shannon and published by the Kathrada Foundation that same year.

On his life, he had this to say: “My life has been one struggle for peace and natural justice, for a common humanity and a struggle against the greatest evil of this century, the evil of racism.”

“If I were to choose my life all over again I would follow the same path. I could never have remained indifferent to the
poverty and suffering of our people.”

Compiled by Narissa Subramoney