President Cyril Ramaphosa says to give full expression to the legacy of stalwarts like Aziz Pahad, their teachings must not be confined to history books but they must be frequently revisited and taken into the future.
“We have lost a comrade, a friend and a patriot who dedicated his life to the liberation of our country and its people,” President Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
Delivering the eulogy at the funeral service of the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad, at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg, President Ramaphosa described Pahad as a hardworking public servant.
“It is a sad day for the diplomatic community, particularly for the many men and women chosen to represent the country abroad, who had the privilege of being mentored, counselled and trained by our departed brother and comrade,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa declared a Special Official Funeral Category 2 for Pahad and ordered that flags be flown at half-mast until this evening. Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lusufi, senior government officials, politicians and members of the public attended the funeral.
“Over the past few years, we have had to bid farewell to many dear comrades, men and women who were giants of the liberation struggle,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said the departed stalwarts played an important role in the history of the country.
“They were there at all the high and low points in our struggle for liberation, and remained on to shepherd us along the difficult road to democracy. At times such as this, when we lose another stalwart, we are shaken, as would a tree whose roots have been damaged or lost.
“These great men and women, of whom Aziz Pahad was one, were the roots that nourished the tree of our democracy. It feels as though a part of us has gone with them.
“And yet, such were the legacies they left behind that this great tree that is our democracy, abides. We may at times be battered by strong headwinds. Times can be hard.”
President Ramaphosa said the democracy that Aziz Pahad and his generation worked so hard to achieve remains firm, steady, well-anchored and strong.
“Aziz Pahad will be remembered for his many fine attributes and we will have reflected on some of them today.
“He was an activist who played a formative role in the liberation movement in exile in the 1960s and beyond, and was a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement in Europe and the United Kingdom.
“As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was involved in peacebuilding and mediation efforts in a number of conflicts on the continent and in the Middle East,” the President said.
Pahad passed away on Wednesday evening at the age of 82. He served as the Deputy Minister of the then Department of Foreign Affairs - now the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) -from 1994 to 2008.
Pahad's passing follows that of his brother and former Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad, in July 2023.
Former colleagues hailed Pahad as a fine diplomat. He has also been hailed as one of the key architects of South Africa’s foreign policy.
In April 2021, the University of Pretoria conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate in Literature for his contributions to local and international peace, security, justice and international solidarity.
“Pahad's contributions and approach to diplomacy bring strong moral convictions, careful judgement and above all, a quiet, influential determination in the search for solutions to South Africa's challenges,” the University of Pretoria said at that time.
Years after relinquishing his role in government, Pahad remained active in civic affairs. In 2018, he chaired the Foreign Policy Review Panel appointed by then Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
At the Ubuntu Awards organised by DIRCO early this year, Pahad was awarded the OR Tambo Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to a South Africa that is free and democratic, and a world that is fair and just. - SAnews.gov.za