S.A. Mourns the Loss of Aziz Pahad: A Life of Struggle and Diplomacy

Aziz Pahad

The somber news reverberates through Cape Town as South Africa bids farewell to a stalwart of the struggle and a distinguished diplomat, Aziz Pahad, who has passed away.

Pahad’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the history of democratic South Africa, where he held the esteemed position of the nation’s first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. His journey was marked by unwavering determination, and it ran parallel to that of his brother, Essop Pahad, who departed from this world in July.

At the age of 82, Aziz Pahad leaves behind a remarkable story of dedication and resilience. Born on December 25, 1940, in Schweizer-Reneke, North West, he came of age during a tumultuous era in South Africa’s history.

In 1964, the apartheid regime’s oppressive measures forced Pahad into exile, leading him to seek refuge in the United Kingdom following the Rivonia Trial. Abroad, he assumed a pivotal role in nurturing and expanding the anti-apartheid movement across Europe, cementing his place as a prominent figure in the struggle for justice.

Pahad’s commitment to the cause was further exemplified as he served on both the national executive of the African National Congress (ANC) and the central committee of the South African Communist Party during the mid-eighties. His involvement in the secret negotiations with the South African government played an instrumental role in paving the path toward a democratic state.

For 14 years, Aziz Pahad faithfully served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, contributing significantly to South Africa’s diplomacy on the global stage. His principled stand led to his resignation in protest against the recall of Thabo Mbeki as head of state during a turbulent period in the nation’s history.

In 2014, former President Jacob Zuma appointed him as his envoy to address the Middle East crisis, showcasing Pahad’s enduring commitment to peace and diplomacy.

Aziz Pahad’s remarkable journey, marked by struggle, diplomacy, and dedication, found its literary expression in his memoir titled “The Insurgent Diplomat.” His passing leaves a void in South Africa’s history, a testament to a life dedicated to the pursuit of justice and freedom.

Commenting on the future direction of the ANC, Aziz Pahad, in a 2015 interview with CNBC Africa, offered profound insights into the challenges facing the liberation movement as it navigated the complexities of governance. Pahad, who had a unique perspective, having spent time in exile, cautioned about the potential pitfalls that awaited a movement when it assumed the reins of power.

In his contemplative words, he remarked, “We all had, especially those in exile, read a lot of what happens to a liberation movement when it goes into power. I don’t think we fully appreciate it, the effect of us going into government, in all structures of government and the lack of leadership, both from outside and inside who could deal with a country like South Africa.”

Recognizing the moral quandary that the ANC faced at times, Pahad offered a solution rooted in a return to the movement’s foundational principles. He emphasized the need to engage and empower the younger generations, urging them to champion a better South Africa and a better Africa. Pahad believed that instilling strong value systems and fostering visionary leadership at all levels were pivotal to this transformation.

He also cautioned against the tendency of all political parties to overlook the aspirations of the younger generations, warning against facile labels like ‘Born Frees’ and the ‘Lost Generation.’ Pahad advocated for a reconnection with the essence of a South Africa that underwent profound transformation.

Aziz Pahad’s sage counsel transcends his passing, offering a poignant reflection on the challenges and opportunities facing not only the ANC but all political movements seeking to shape the future of their nations.