Lawyer, freedom fighter, founding member of APDUSA and Robben Island prisoner
Abdool Kader Hassim was born in Dundee, Northern Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) on 10 November 1934. Both his parents were born in India. He began schooling around 1941/1942 in Dundee at the Dundee Indian High School until the beginning of 1951 when he and his elder brother went to Umzinto where they wrote their matriculation examinations at Umzinto High School.
He became involved in organisational politics at the time of the 1952 Defiance Campaign organized by the Congress Alliance. At the time, he was affiliated to the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM). He worked for a year in the leather industry and was active in the trade unions around 1953/1954. It ultimately ended in a massive leather worker strike in 1960, in Pietermaritzburg in opposition to an incentive scheme, which the bosses operated at the time.
In 1955, he went to Natal University, which used to be called ‘Natal University, Non-European section (UNNE)’. The university was situated at the back of Sastri College, the high school in Centenary Road, Durban. Kader was part of a group at Natal University called the Durban Students Union. At University, he was actively involved in politics. They called, for the boycott of the graduation ceremony as it used to be segregated in those days.
The highlight of his activities was the boycott of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Natal University in 1960. The University had a very elaborate programme, with international celebrities such as Edmund Hilary and the Royal Ballet from England to perform in Durban at the Alhambra Theatre. These were for Whites only.
He was placed under house arrest for five years, on 22 June 1964, in Pietermaritzburg, and was confined to his flat from six in the evening until six in the morning. In addition, he had to stay indoors on Saturdays from two until Monday morning. He was not allowed any visitors. In 1969 he was served with another five year house arrest and again in 1980.
By 1964, he was a member of African Peoples Democratic Union of South Africa (APDUSA). His first child was born in March 1964 a few months before his house arrest. His second child was born in 1968 during his house arrest. At the end of May 1969, when his house arrest was about to expire, they re-imposed another five-year house arrest on him.
Kader was arrested and detained on 17 February 1971 until 16 June 1971, when he was formally charged on four counts under the Terrorism Act. He was detained in Greytown away from his home town of Pietermaritzburg for rendering assistance to Unity Movement members who had re-entered the country from outside. His wife was also detained during his detention. He was sentenced in total to twenty-one years, but effectively his sentences ran concurrently for eight years.
Whilst in prison, his fellow political prisoners asked him to draft a petition against the authorities, which the prison authorities regarded as treason. He appeared before the prison department and was held for six months in isolation. Whilst he was in prison, the Natal Law Society struck him off the roll of attorneys.
He was released from Robben Island in February 1980. When he came out of prison, Kader had to get permission to work in his own law office. In 1996, he was re-admitted as an attorney after he forced the Law Society to make an application for his re-admission as an attorney. This was a precedent, as it had never been done before to an attorney who was struck off the Roll for political activities.
Kader Hassim passed away in hospital on his birthday, 10 November 2011. He leaves behind his wife, Nina and a son Enver. In January 2011, Hassim lost a son, Lyov.