Aziz Goolam Hoosein Pahad was born on 25 December 1940, Schweizer Reneke, North West Province, (formerly a part of the old Transvaal Province). In 1959, he matriculated at the Central Indian High School, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng), and obtained a BA Degree with Majors in Sociology and Afrikaans, in 1963, from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
The Pahad family was politically active in the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and later in the African National Congress (ANC). His father, Goolam Hoosein Ismail Pahad, was active in the preparations for the historic Congress of the People that took place in June 1955 in Kliptown, Johannesburg township, where the Freedom Charter was launched, calling for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa. His brother Essop Goolam Pahad, also an ANC member, was in exile in London and later a Cabinet Minister in the democratic South African government.
As a student, Pahad was actively involved in politics, especially in the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC).
In 1963 Pahad and his brother Essop were banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, which restricted their movement and prevented them from attending public gatherings. During this time, he was often detained for short periods for violating his banning order.
In 1964, following the Rivonia Trial, he left South Africa into exile. He lived in London, and also spent time in Angola and Zimbabwe. In 1966, Pahad started working full-time for the African National Congress (ANC), developing the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the United Kingdom and Europe.
In 1966, he obtained a Diploma in International Relations from the University College of London and in 1968, Pahad graduated with an MA Degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex, England.
At the ANC’s Kabwe Conference in Zambia, in June 1985, Pahad was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Pahad was also part of the ANC’s exiled leadership that started secret talks with leading Afrikaners in 1987.
In 1990 he returned to South Africa and in 1991 was appointed Deputy Head of the ANC Department of International Affairs. Between 1991- 1992 he was a member of the National Peace Executive Committee. In 1994 he served on the Transitional Executive Council's Sub-Council on Foreign Affairs.
After South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, Pahad was elected as a Member of Parliament and was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. A position he was re-appointed to in South Africa’s elections in 1999 and 2004 and which post he continued to serve until 2008.
In September 2008, Pahad resigned from his Cabinet position following Judge Chris Nicholson’s judgment, which found that then-President Thabo Mbeki and his Cabinet interfered politically in the work of the National Prosecuting Authority and in criminal charges related to Jacob Zuma.
Pahad said these were serious allegations “which asserts that we have collectively violated the Constitution and acted illegally and criminally and [are] therefore liable for prosecution”. On this basis, he tendered his resignation.
Former president Thabo Mbeki described Aziz Pahad, in an eloquently written foreword in Pahad’s autobiography Insurgent Diplomat — Civil Talks or Civil War? “a humane and a sunny disposition and common touch”. Mbeki described their friendship and years in exile as “a deep and abiding sense of comradeship”.
Aziz Goolam Hoosein Pahad passed away on 27 September 2023 in Johannesburg, Gauteng.
IRC, (2013), Profile: Mr. Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister, from International Relations and Cooperation, [online], Available at www.dfa.gov.za [Accessed: 28 April 2014]|M&G, (2008), Pahad steps down as deputy minister of foreign affairs from Mail & Guardian, 27 September [online], Available at www.mg.co.za [Accessed: 28 April 2014]|Gerhart, G. M., & Glaser, C.L., (2010), From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990 - Challenge and Victory, 1980-1990, [online], Available at https://books.google.co.za [Accessed: 25 April 2014]ǀvan Tilburg, L. (2023). TimesLive. (28 September 2023). Aziz Pahad: SA’s 'best deputy foreign minister who never got the top job' [online]. Available at https://www.timeslive.co.za. Accessed 28 September 2023