Ebrahim Ebrahim – Farewell to a Gentle Revolutionary

Ann Linde, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden with Ambassador Lindiwe Mabuza and former Deputy Minister of International Relations of South Africa, Ebrahim Ebrahim (photo: twitter)

8 December 2021

Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim (Ebie) was abducted by the Apartheid Police/National Intelligence Agency in December 1986, from Swaziland into South Africa. At his trial initially held in Piet Retief, his legal team was led by Professor Leonard Gering, a legal titan who was the former Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Durban Westville. Because Prof Gering was classified as white he found accommodation in Piet Retief. However his colleagues and members of his legal team who were classified as black by the racist apartheid regime had to find accommodation across the border in Swaziland and traversed daily into South Africa and had to have their travel documents endorsed.

Subsequently, the trial was moved to Pretoria, where at the conclusion of the trial, the Judge stated to Ebrahim “…clearly your earlier 15 years didn’t do you much good!” and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Ebrahim remained defiant in his response and stated “I did not consider myself morally guilty of the acts for which I was convicted … As an oppressed nation, we could never regard our courts as places of justice in the moral sense of the word. We cannot divorce the courts from the apartheid structures for they are a product of an exclusively white racial parliament and are there to enforce Laws enacted by this parliament no matter how morally offensive and odious these laws are to the oppressed. Can a basically unjust law be justly applied and can something morally wrong be made kosher just because it passes through a judicial process?”

Ebrahim was released in 1991, after the Appeal Court ruled that because he was kidnapped in a foreign country, the Court did not have any jurisdiction to put him on trial.

He continued his work committed to freeing South Africa from the clutches of oppression and injustice. When the miracle of a negotiated settlement was reached and the first democratic parliament of the Government of National Unity was formed, Ebrahim represented the ANC constituency of Chatsworth, a township in the city of Durban in KwaZulu Natal. The residents were mainly descendants of indentured labourers brought in from India.

Ebrahim recalled the words of journalist Hendry Polak who, in 1903 remarked on the sugar farmers of Natal on their treatment of indentured labour …”The Indian labourer is often regarded by his employer as of less account than a good beast, for the latter costs money to replace, whereas the former is a cheap commodity."

Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim served as the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for South Africa and went on to be an International Peace Facilitator in his retirement. Ebrahim passed away on 6 December at the age of 84 and was laid to rest in Heroes Acre at Westpark Cemetary in Johannesburg.

Farewell 🌹 Mkhonto!

Tribute by Advocate Ajay Sooklal