In a solemn and heartfelt message, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed deep sorrow and condolences for the Pahad family, a family celebrated for its stalwarts of the liberation struggle.
He mourned the loss of Aziz Pahad, the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and a celebrated member of the African National Congress (ANC) who played a pivotal role in the fight against apartheid and shaped foreign policy.
Pahad died at the age of 82 at his Saxonwold home on Wednesday evening. His funeral took place at the Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg and was attended by former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. Ambassadors, fellow ANC stalwarts, former and current ministers were also present.
Ramaphosa acknowledged Pahad’s impact on the diplomatic community, particularly on those who had the privilege of being mentored, counselled, and trained by him in the realm of international representation for South Africa.
Ramaphosa highlighted the recent loss of many stalwart comrades and the significant roles they played in the struggle for liberation and the subsequent journey toward democracy.
“Over the past few years we have had to bid farewell to many dear comrades; men and women who were giants of the liberation struggle. As much as it is the nature of existence that we all have a fixed time upon this earth, we feel their loss keenly, each and every one of them.
“They played such an important role in the history of our country. They were there at all the high and low points in our struggle for liberation, and remained on to shepherd us along the difficult road to democracy,” he said.
Reflecting on the loss of these giants of the liberation struggle, Ramaphosa likened it to a tree whose roots have been damaged or lost. He emphasised that these figures, including Pahad, were the roots that nourished the tree of democracy, and their legacies continued to strengthen and sustain the democratic fabric of the nation.
Pahad was acknowledged for his outstanding attributes and contributions to the liberation movement, both in exile and within South Africa.
Notably, he played a pivotal role in facilitating talks between the exiled ANC and representatives of the Afrikaner community in the mid-1980s. Additionally, as the long-serving Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he made significant contributions to peace-building and mediation efforts across various conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
President Ramaphosa drew on Islamic teachings to emphasise the importance of steadfastness, humility, and commitment, qualities embodied by Pahad. He noted Pahad's dedication to servant leadership and his unwavering focus on serving the greater cause, always putting South Africa at the forefront.
“He gave meaning to the idea of servant leadership. In whatever role he was given, he showed steadfastness, self-reliance, commitment to a greater cause, lack of ego, and principle.
“It was never about him. He never sought to place himself at the centre of the narrative of our democratic history. He was not consumed by the pursuit of fame, status or the accumulation of riches.
“He did not use his stature as a liberation stalwart to speak down to anyone or to level critique that was solely informed by his own opinions. Instead he called for us to embrace each other across the race, class and political divide, to put our differences aside and work for the betterment of our country,” Ramaphosa said.