Maritzburgers remember ANC veteran Kader Asmal

2011-06-23 00:00

ANC veteran Kader Asmal, who died yesterday died at the age of 76, had numerous links with Pietermaritzburg, and local people remembered him as a principled man who loved learning.

Asmal died in Constantia Hospital in Cape Town after having a heart attack and slipping into a coma, e- News reported.

Asmal’s late sister, Fathima Cassimjee, lived in Pietermaritzburg and he came from Stanger, where he was born, to live with her shortly after she married and moved to the city.

His nephew, Dr Farouk Cassimjee, said his uncle suffered from asthma and that the climate in the midlands was better for him.

Asmal was an outstanding pupil at Mohammedan Oriental School near the railway station, which has since closed down.

Cassimjee recalls his uncle always saying to him that he had to learn 10 new words from the English dictionary every day.

“He followed his own advice and it’s no wonder he turned out to be such a great orator,” Cassimjee said.

Cassimjee said his mother was a much older sister and she brought up his uncle and this is why they were very close.

After his return from exile in Ireland, Asmal regularly visited the family in Pietermaritzburg.

His last visit was to attend his sister’s funeral, which took place over a year ago.

Msunduzi Exco member Babu Baijoo spent some years with Asmal in Ireland in the 1960s.

He said the former education minister was his mentor when they were in Ireland.

“Well, I was fortunate to study in Ireland in 1968 when Asmal was a professor in constitutional law there. He was my mentor in the anti-apartheid structures.

“He mentored all South African students who were in Ireland and England in the 60s. We all interacted with him and we were mentored by him,” said Baijoo.

He said that back home, Asmal taught South Africans “in all walks of life” a lot about politics.

“He was a principled man. In the early 90s he encouraged all of us in Ireland and England to return home to work for our society,” said Baijoo.

A spokeperson for the office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Ndabenhle Sibiya, said, “Dr Zweli Mkhize expressed his heartfelt condolences. The premier said Asmal played his role in championing the provision of quality education in the country.”

A principled critic to the very end: Obituary on page 4

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