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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad dies at 84

After South Africa’s general elections in 1994, Pahad served as the Parliamentary Counsellor to the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

Struggle stalwart and former minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad has died at the age of 84.

A statement by the family confirmed that Pahad “died peacefully in his sleep” in the early hours of Thursday morning.

While funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised, he is expected to be buried according to Muslim rights.

Pahad was born on 21 June 1939 in Schweizer-Reneke in the Northwest.  He grew up in a family of political activists.


His political career began in 1958 when he joined the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress.

In 1962 Pahad was arrested for organising an illegal strike following the banning of the African National Congress (ANC) In December 1964. Pahad was banned for five years and went into exile.

After South Africa’s general elections in 1994, Pahad served as the Parliamentary Counsellor to the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. In the 1999 general election, Pahad was appointed as the minister in the Presidency. 

Pahad had been in retirement after serving as minister from 1999 to 2008.


President Cyril Ramaphosa

Tributes poured in for Pahad from across South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he is deeply saddened by the passing Pahad.

The president offered his deep condolences to the family, friends and comrades of the late veteran.

“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.

“Security crackdowns, banning and exile shaped Essop Pahad’s contribution over decades to our struggle and, as Parliamentary Counsellor to President Thabo Mbeki and Minister in the Presidency, to the early design and impact of our democratic state,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa added that Pahad was a thinker and strategist.

“He brought his understanding of the human condition, injustice and inequality at the national and international level to bear on our transition to democracy and in introducing a democratic, non-aligned and activist South Africa to the global community.

“He served our nation with pride, principle, pragmatism, and a charm that that lived comfortably alongside a tongue that could lash severely at the right provocation,” Ramaphosa said.

Lindiwe Sisulu

Speaking to The Citizen from Mozambique, former Minister Lindiwe Sisulu remembered Essop as not only a lifelong revolutionary himself, but a solid political support for most of of the stalwarts in the struggle.

“He had a generosity of heart that encompassed all around him in his love.”

“Love him to bits and very grateful for his support and my deepest condolences and sympathies to his family once again, may his soul repose peacefully,” Sisulu said.


Trade union federation the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) conveyed its condolences to the family, friends and colleague of Pahad.

“Cosatu conveys its heartfelt condolences to the family of comrade Essop Pahad, relatives, friends, former colleagues, Congress Movement Activists, the Alliance and the global community who interacted with him during the Anti-apartheid era. May his soul rest in peace.”


Deputy President Paul Mashatile has, in his capacity as acting president, declared a special official funeral category 2 as a mark of honour for the late struggle stalwart.

Pahad will be laid to rest on Thursday afternoon, 6 July 2023 with Muslim Rites at West Park Cemetery,
Johannesburg at 2pm.

Ceremonial honours will be provided by the South African Police Service.

Mashatile will deliver the eulogy in his capacity as acting president as Ramaphosa is currenly out of the country.

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