Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim



Ebrahim is a South African Muslim who was at the centre of the anti-apartheid struggle. He was imprisoned for fifteen years and tortured, but emerged with a valiant spirit that will serve as an inspiration for years to come. Born in Durban in 1937, he completed his Primary Education at the Hindu Tamil Institute and Secondary Education at Sastri College. He then studied at the University of South Africa, joining the Natal Indian Youth Congress and the Natal Indian Congress in 1952. Ebrahim joined the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto We Sizwe in 1961. He was arrested in 1963 and charged under the Sabotage Act with eighteen others in the Pietermaritzburg Sabotage Trial. He was sentenced to and served 15 years imprisonment on Robben Island. He was released in 1979 and under instruction of the ANC operated from the front-line states bordering South Africa, responsible for the Political Underground. In 1986 he was abducted by part-time paid informers of the National Intelligence Services (NIS) from Swaziland and put on trial. His powerful statement to the court conveys an eloquence and passion that ranks with other great courtroom declarations by Muslims fighting tyranny in the twentieth century - for example the speeches by the famous 'Karachi Seven' when being tried for sedition by the Raj in 1921 for 'tampering with the loyalty of Muslim troops'. Ebrahim declared to the Court: 'My parents brought me up to be proud of my language and my culture. As a Muslim child, I was schooled in Islamic prayers and in the reading of the Holy Qur'an. As children we learnt of the struggles and the wars of jihad waged by the Holy Prophet of Islam against the oppressive and decadent social order of his time. We grew up listening to the call of the muezzin from the minaret five times a day, declaring to the world the universality of humankind.... I served the whole of my 15 years' imprisonment without a day's remission in Robben Island Prison. For 15 years I was not permitted to see a Muslim religious worker and was not even allowed a copy of the Holy Quran. If the prison authorities intended to break the backbone of political prisoners, it has in reality achieved the exact opposite. I was released from prison in 1979 only to be banned and heavily restricted...'. His statement described the methods of the apartheid security regime: 'My abduction was followed by police torture to the point where I nearly lost my mind. My two co-accused were also brutally tortured. It is horrifying to note how widespread these tortures are...No state has the right, legal or moral, to fabricate evidence against an accused person. This crime is aggravated when it is done to achieve certain political goals. These witnesses could not have falsely testified without the active collusion of the security police'. Ebrahim was released from prison in 1991. In July of the same year he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC and also as member of the National Working Committee. He was given the responsibility of setting up the Patriotic Front during the Multi-party Negotiations. He was elected as a member of the National Assembly of Parliament in 1994. In August 1997 was elected Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Joint Select Committee on Intelligence. He remains a valued advisor within the ANC leadership.

Compiled by:M A Sherif

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