Aziz Pahad the Diplomat and a committed revolutionary of the ANC

Cde Aziz Pahad can best be described as a consummate diplomat – skillful, accomplished, adept, adroit, proficient, knowledgeable and erudite intellectual.  But he was, as many who rubbed shoulders with him would attest, a gentle giant, with his high pitched voice riding on his wit and abiding humour. He had a Soul.

Cde Aziz was Deputy Minister for more than ten years and served under Presidents Mandela and Mbeki respectively, with humility, and steadfastness.

He touched many young souls, especially the young cadets inducted into the field of international relations for the first time and receiving diplomatic training. Conscientiously and painstakingly, Cde Aziz would show them the ropes in his own way. He had been taught by the best, and was deeply influenced in his political life by comrades such as his brother Essop Pahad, Ahmed Kathrada, Babla Salojee, Indres Naidoo, Ahmed Timol and many others.

In his book, Insurgent Diplomat, he makes a salient point about the role played by the Congress Movement early in his life: “While we were products of our family background and history, the Congress environment became equally prominent in challenging an increasingly repressive regime… In a real sense, while I had a nuclear family, the Congress movement and the many personalities that animated it had also become family and an integral part of my existence.”

So, for him it was easier to relate and cohere with young people because of the experience from his interactions when he was young. During the time when he was Deputy Minister in the then Foreign Affairs, now DIRCO, Cde Aziz would be seen in the company of both young and seasoned diplomats, formulating and putting together new ideas in the creation of a new dispensation that was non-racial and non-sexist foreign affairs department. 

His contributions in these discussions were particularly valued and would assist in the formulation of South African foreign policy, diametrically different from the former apartheid one that was both racist sexist. 

There was a bar called “Off the Record” where diplomats and journalists would sit, drink and discuss pertinent, topical issues in a conducive environment. Cde Aziz would always be there, listening and being listened to. In that way, the media was able to get first hand undiluted information from these off the cuff briefings. Consequently, the relationship between the media and the diplomatic corps was well managed by both sides.


Cde Aziz was accessible to all and many diplomats could not fathom why he was elevated to a full Minister. That was the least of his problems. Everybody saw the dedication with which he executed his tasks. The volume of work he churned far surpassed the position which he occupied.

He poured his heart and soul in the peaceful resolution to conflicts plaguing the continent. He clearly understood that peace was a pre-requisite for development and that for as long as there are wars and conflicts in the continent, development, which is the engine of prosperity, will remain a pie in the sky.

He demonstrated that there were important lessons for “governments still resorting to military aggression to resolve conflicts by showing that honesty, mutual understanding and compromise are essential to bringing an end to instability.”

Cde Aziz had a Soul. According to Kenneth Nance “Soul is that something that is innate, it is doing your thing for the sake of humankind. It is having an unprejudiced heart, and loving your sister and brother no matter their colour or creed…Soul is not forgetting the little people who struggle to get by, day by day, and not shunning them when they come your way. Soul is in essence: doing your thing, not for vanity, but for the perpetuation and spread of sisterhood and brotherhood throughout humanity.

This giant of a man, as with all freedom fighters and veterans in the ANC, participated with utter commitment in the two structures-the Stalwarts and Veterans which participated in engaging the then leadership of the ANC when it became evident that the ANC was shifting from the trajectory to steer the National Democratic Revolution (NDC). Being a member of the Stalwarts and Veterans, he was also active in ensuring that the then Veterans League, must be revamped through elections, so that it can take its rightful place to save and rescue the African National Congress.

It is on this basis that a protracted process, in which Aziz participated vigorously, unfolded, guided by the resolutions of two conferences of the ANC, empowering the Veterans League to together with the senior structures of the ANC lead the Renewal of the ANC.

Aziz was a member of this Renewal Committee of the Veterans League of the ANC, and also served and guided its day to day Secretariat.

Cde Aziz as members of the ANCVL we will not disappoint you,we will help the movement to renew itself and ensure that it regains and maintain the trust in society.

Lala Ngoxolo Cde Aziz Pahad

Issued by Dr Snuki Zikalala.