The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) mourns the passing of the former Minister in the Presidency, Dr. Essop Pahad. The Federation offers its sympathies and support to his wife, children, grandchildren, brother and the broader Pahad family. This is a loss not only to the Pahads but also for Tripartite Alliance and the nation as a whole.
Comrade Pahad dedicated his entire life to the democratic movement and the liberation of South Africa. This commitment to serve saw him playing active leadership roles in many formations from the Transvaal Indian Congress to the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party. He followed a path set not only by his later father Goolam Pahad but also by another notable son of Schweizer-Reneke, Ahmed Kathrada.
His journey in the liberation struggle saw him rise from being a student activist at Wits University to training with Umkhonto We Sizwe in Angola, from studying at the Lenin Party School in Moscow to serving on the World Marxist Review’s Board in Prague.
Dr. Pahad believed education is a lifelong process. The Pahad family was forced to move their sons, Essop and Aziz, from Schweizer-Reneke to Johannesburg as there were no options for children of Indian descent to complete their schooling in a small-town suffocating under the yoke of racism. In spite of the many obstacles put in place by the apartheid regime for Black children to receive an education, Pahad not only received a Bachelor’s degree from Wits but went on to earn a Master’s and PhD from Sussex University in Britain.
He is remembered as leader who was forthright in his views. His period as Minister in the Presidency under former President Thabo Mbeki saw him play a key role in that administration. His tenure as the Minister responsible for the then Office of Persons with Disabilities is fondly remembered by disability rights organisations as he was a powerful champion for the rights of persons with disabilities.
The passing of Essop Pahad is a reminder that this generation of stalwarts is coming to an end. If we are to do justice to their memories and sacrifices, the current and next generation of leaders need to reflect on their shortcomings and how they can better emulate the likes of the Pahad and many others who served South Africa with distinction during very difficult times. We have witnessed the rise of an embarrassing sense of entitlement, unhealthy lifestyles and an addiction to the trappings of power of too many current and aspiring leaders. This is a problem we can do without and that needs to be corrected if we want South Africa to reach its full potential.
Issued by COSATU
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