ANC veteran Kader Asmal has died at the age of 76, the party said on Wednesday. Luthuli House had received confirmation of the news from the ANC's Western Cape office, secretary general Gwede Mantashe said.
He died in Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic in Cape Town after having a heart attack and slipping into a coma, eNews reported.
"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 last night (Tuesday) when he suffered a serious heart attack," said family spokesman Allan Taylor.
"He was resuscitated and moved to the intensive care unit. Unfortunately he did not regain consciousness and died at 4pm."
Asmal is survived by his wife Louise, his sons Rafiq and Adam, and two grandchildren, Oisín and Zoë.
In line with his final wishes his body would be cremated in a private family ceremony, Taylor said. "The family has requested that his final wishes be respected and that they are given the space to mourn his passing. Louise and the family thank you for all the support and good wishes that they have been receiving at this time".
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.
Asmal left parliament in 2007 to take up a post at the University of the Western Cape where he was professor extraordinary in the faculty of law.
Besides his role in the anti-apartheid struggle and pro-human rights endeavours, Asmal will be remembered for his efforts to supply clean water to the poor and the rural people of South Africa during his tenure as water affairs minister from 1994.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle is sufficiently deprived of blood to result in death of muscle cells. This is called an acute myocardial infarction (where infarct means cell death). Most cases are caused by plaque rupture and thrombosis.
The symptoms of an AMI are severe – a pressing pain in the centre of the chest that often spreads to the arms and/or jaw. You may feel extremely anxious and nauseous. People often describe a feeling of impending doom.
Your blood pressure falls, you look pale and grey, your pulse is rapid and scarcely perceptible and you are sweating profusely. You may also feel short of breath.
This is an emergency and you must be rapidly diagnosed and treated in hospital. About 20% of untreated patients die within the first two hours of an AMI and another 20% will die in the following four weeks.
Treatment with “clot-busting” medication within the first two to four hours of the heart attack decreases the chances of early death from abnormal heart rhythms, so it is very important to get to a hospital as soon as possible.
Warning signs of a heart attack
In men, the first warning signs of a heart attack include central chest discomfort or pain of a crushing, heavy nature (this is called angina), which is brought on by exertion.
But in women, the warning signs may be more vague and confusing.
Click here to take a look at a sketch illustrating which warning signs, in men and women respectively, may signify that a heart attack is on its way.