Asmal a giant of democratic movement

2011-06-23 06:56

Kader Asmal was a fearless fighter for freedom and human rights and his death has weakened South Africa’s democracy, political parties and civil organisations said yesterday after the ANC veteran’s death in Cape Town.

President Jacob Zuma said Asmal made a “sterling” contribution to the struggle for liberation and sacrificed a lot in his life to ensure the attainment of freedom and democracy.

“He will be remembered for his energy, forthrightness, efficiency and commitment to making this country a better place each day. He will also always be remembered for his passion for human rights for all.”

Asmal was the minister of water affairs and forestry from 1994, a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, and education minister from 1999.

In a statement from his family, spokesperson Allan Taylor said Asmal (76) suffered a serious heart attack and died while in hospital for a stomach ailment.

“Asmal was admitted to the Constantiaberg Medi Clinic on June 17 in Cape Town for treatment of a stomach ailment. He was making reasonable progress in a general ward up until late on Tuesday when he suffered a serious heart attack,” said Taylor.

“He was resuscitated and moved to the intensive care unit. Unfortunately he did not regain consciousness and died this afternoon at 4pm.”

Asmal is survived by his wife Louise, his sons Rafiq and Adam, and two grandchildren, Oisín and Zoë.

He will be cremated in a private family ceremony and the family has requested that they are given the space to mourn his passing.

The ANC said he was one of the party’s foremost intellectual giants.

Spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Asmal’s “immeasurable contribution in the liberation of South Africa” ensured that the ANC earned respect from the international community.

DA leader Helen Zille said Asmal represented the best of a generation of struggle heroes.

“Asmal was far more than a politician. He represented the best of a generation of struggle heroes who made unimaginable sacrifices to realise a democratic South Africa.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Asmal served South Africa without an aim of self-enrichment.

“He served his people and his nation, without a thought of self-enrichment or aggrandisement,” he said.

“He added substance and vigour to whatever he did, from the international anti-apartheid movement, to the negotiations that gave birth to our democratic nation”.

Former president Thabo Mbeki called Asmal an outstanding fighter for the liberation of South Africa and one of the architects of democracy.

“All of us who knew and worked with him could always depend on him as a steadfast fighter for the liberation and advancement of the interests of all South Africans,” he said.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi described Asmal’s death as weakening democracy in South Africa.

“With his death the republic has lost one of the most vigilant custodians of our freedoms and constitutional order, who never feared to speak up on matters of principle,” he said. “One of the greatest independent thinking and outspoken minds has left us.”

The SA Communist Party said Asmal loved robust debates and was always in search of new ideas.

“Although we did not always agree with his ideas as the SACP, we respected his intellectual contribution in the task of reconstructing and developing our country,” spokesperson Malesela Maleka said.

ID leader Patricia de Lille said Asmal worked up until the last week of his life. “Up until the last week of his life, he had been fighting for the rights of South Africans. Just a few days ago he encouraged South Africans to stand firm against government’s proposed Protection of Information Bill,” she said.

Cope co-founder Mbhazima Shilowa was shocked and saddened by Asmal’s death and described him as an icon and a legend.

“Asmal was one of the very few icons and legends who still upheld the founding values and principles of the democratic movement and the liberation struggle.”

The SA Security Forces Union described Asmal as a political leader who believed that the rights of soldiers needed to be respected and protected.

“He believed that by not looking after soldiers’ rights, soldiers will not be able to respect and protect civilian rights,” spokesperson Bhekinkosi Mvovo said.

“He was never shy to point out to the senior management of the national defence force that their failure to take care of subordinates was putting the national security at risk.”

According to Cricket SA (CSA) Asmal rarely missed a Proteas game at Newlands, Cape Town.

“He had a passionate love for sport and particularly for cricket. He served on the national executive of the SA Non-Racial Olympic Committee and, in spite of his commitments to the government from 1994 onwards as a senior cabinet minister, he did a lot of significant work for cricket,” said CSA chief executive Gerald Majola.

The South African History Online organisation called Asmal a giant of the liberation struggle.

“He was one of the giants of the liberation struggle, a true humanist, intellectual, a leading architect of the new constitution, and more recently a passionate and fearless defender of this founding document of democratic South Africa,” the organisation said.

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