Essop Pahad, a veteran of South Africa’s struggle against white minority rule who spent decades in exile abroad, died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 84 on Thursday after battling cancer, his family said.
Pahad was among many activists forced to leave the country by the apartheid regime. Authorities arrested him for organising an illegal strike in 1962 and he was officially banned from South Africa for five years in 1964.
He became the minister in the presidency under Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as the country’s second post-apartheid leader following the 1994 African National Congress (ANC) election victory that ushered in democracy.
Pahad, a South African of Indian descent, served in the role under fellow former political exile Mbeki between 1999 and 2008.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa mourns “the passing of a veteran of our struggle” in a statement declaring an official funeral for Pahad on Thursday afternoon.
“Essop Pahad was a thinker and strategist who brought his understanding of the human condition, injustice and inequality … to bear on our transition to democracy,” Ramaphosa said.
“Security crackdowns, banning and exile shaped Essop Pahad’s contribution over decades.”