Robben Islander Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim dies, aged 84

Former international relations and co-operation deputy minister and struggle veteran Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim has died.
Former international relations and co-operation deputy minister and struggle veteran Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim has died.
Image: Phumla Williams GCIS via Twitter

Anti-apartheid struggle activist Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim has died, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said on Monday.

He was 84.

The foundation said Ebrahim’s life, described by his fellow ANC activist Kathrada, “was one of courage, characterised by the spirit of sacrifice”.

Neeshan Balton of the foundation said: “Another giant of the liberation struggle has fallen. Condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Ebrahim Ebrahim.

“His unassuming bravery in the fight against apartheid is captured in a booklet written by his wife Shannon.”

Phumla Williams, director-general of the government communications service, posted on Twitter: “Thank you Ebby for your contribution to this country and for mentoring me as a young underground activist.”

Ebrahim joined the liberation movement as a youth activist in 1952 and participated in the Congress of the People Campaign which drew up and adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, according to his government biography.

He was active in all the campaigns of the 1950s, and after the banning of the ANC in 1960 he joined the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

He was arrested in 1963 and charged under the sabotage act with 18 other accused in the Pietermaritzburg sabotage trial. He was sentenced to 15 years on Robben Island.

He was released in 1979 and was banned and restricted to his home town in Durban. He was prevented from participating in any public or political activities. In 1980, as per instruction of the ANC, he went into exile. He operated from the frontline states bordering SA and was responsible for the political underground.

In December 1986, he was kidnapped from Swaziland by SA security forces and detained in SA, where he was severely tortured. He was charged for high treason and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment on Robben Island.

Comrade Ebi served as a member of the NEC of the ANC for 26 years, from 1991 until 2017. Even after retirement, he continued to play an active role in the renewal of the movement and in international relations.
ANC statement

In 1991, the appeal court ruled Ebrahim's kidnapping from a foreign country was illegal, and that the SA court had no jurisdiction to try him. He was released from prison in early 1991.

In July 1991, he was elected to the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC and also became a member of the national working committee.

He participated in the Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa) negotiations which ushered in the postapartheid democratic government.

Ebrahim was elected as MP in 1994 and later served as deputy minister of international relations and co-operation.

The ANC said it had learnt with deep sadness of his passing.

“Comrade Ebi, as he was affectionately known, was a longstanding member of the ANC, a patriot who served his country in different capacities with humility, dedication and distinction,” it said.

“Ebrahim resigned from parliament in July 2002 to take up the position of senior political and economic adviser to the deputy president.

“Since 2002, comrade Ebi was actively involved in conflict resolution efforts between Israel and Palestine, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in Burundi, Kosovo, Bolivia and Nepal.

“Comrade Ebi served as a member of the NEC of the ANC for 26 years, from 1991 until 2017. Even after retirement, he continued to play an active role in the renewal of the movement and in international relations.”

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