Kader Asmal


Human rights and anti-apartheid activist of South Africa. Politician, lawyer and academic of South Africa known as 'the Bee' Kader Asmal was close to Nelson Mandela both personally and through the African National Congress (ANC) work. After the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Kader Asmal returned from his exile to his home in South Africa in 1999. Election to the ANC's National Executive Council guaranteed dynamic and eloquent politician Kader Asmal an influential role in the negotiations. On the ANC's constitutional committee from its founding in 1986, he helped develop a new constitution for South Africa - the country's first multi-racial elections based on one person, one vote - held in 1994. He served as a member of the ANC's negotiating team for the changeover from apartheid. Nelson Mandela appointed him (1994-99) Minister of Water Affairs in the liberated South Africa. He set about with a will to connect clean water to millions who did not enjoy this basic human right. Later, as Minister of Education (1999-2004) where the remedies required repairing the ingrained injustices of apartheid and giving more black pupils the chance in life Kader Asmal told the former 'white' universities to enrol more black students and hire more black lecturers. Kader left government in 2004 and his resignation from parliament in 2008 confirmed his growing disenchantment with the ruling ANC. He was never afraid to speak out about what he believed was right and wrong in post-apartheid South Africa. Asmal was notable for standing apart from the rest of South Africa's intellectual elite. Served as a member, in 1979, of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Crimes of the Apartheid Regime Kader Asmal was also reporter, in 1982, of the International Commission of Inquiry into Violations of International Law by Israel. He was associated with the UN inquiry into the refugee camp massacres at Sabra and Shatila, in Lebanon, in 1982. Kader Asmal was awarded, in 1983, the Prix Unesco for the advancement of human rights. He wrote two books and more than 150 articles on apartheid, labour law, Ireland and decolonisation. Son of a shopkeeper father who had emigrated from Gujarat, India, Abdul Kader Asmal was born at Stanger, Natal. His arrival in England, in 1959, coincided with the first boycott of South African goods, and in 1963 he helped found the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, which would grow into a worldwide pressure group. He graduated at the London School of Economics. He also qualified as a barrister at Lincoln's Inn, London. He began a lengthy stint at Trinity College, Dublin, lecturing in human rights and international and labour law. Kader Asmal helped found Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, which he chaired from 1972 to 1991. He presided over the Irish Council for Civil Liberties from 1976 to 1990. He was vice-president of the International Defence & Aid Fund for Southern Africa (1968-82). He campaigned for civil rights in Northern Ireland and Palestine and participated in several international inquiries into human rights violations. Kader Asmal was professor of human rights law at the University of the Western Cape till 1994 when he was elected to parliament. Short and quick thinker Kader Asmal lived after retirement in Cape Town where he died of heart attack. He was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 1999.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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