Kader Asmal dies in SA, aged 76


Former Trinity College dean of arts and African National Congress minister Kader Asmal has died.

South African media said today the headquarters of the ANC had confirmed Prof Asmal's death from a heart attack. He was 76.

Prof Asmal was minister of water affairs and forestry from 1994, a member of the ANC's national executive committee, and education minister from 1999 to 2004.

He moved to London in 1959 after qualifying as a teacher, where he studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and began the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. He later moved to Trinity College Dublin, where he founded the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.

He qualified in Ireland and Britain as a barrister and lectured in law at TCD for 27 years.

He became a key member of the ANC's national executive committee in 1990 when he returned to South Africa.

In the April 1994 general election, Mr Asmal was elected to parliament, and was appointed by Nelson Mandela to lead the department of water affairs and forestry. In 1999, he was appointed minister of education by then-president Thabo Mbeki and held that post until 2004.

In 2007, Prof Asmal left politics to take up a law professorship at the University of the Western Cape.

Prof Asmal delivered the inaugural lecture at TCD's Centre for Post-Conflict Justice in February last year.

He survived by his wife, Louise, their two sons and two grandchildren.

President of the Irish Human Rights Commission Dr Maurice Manning said he had learned of Prof Asmal's death with great sadness.

"Kader was a great friend of Ireland and a champion of human rights both in Ireland and beyond who also made a lasting contribution to his own country in many ways.

"The common thread running through his varied roles - as an activist, a teacher, a lawyer, a parliamentarian and a government minister - was a deep and abiding concern for his fellow human beings. He will be sorely missed.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties expressed its "profound regret" at the death of Prof Asmal.

"Kader was a truly exceptional person; a leading light of the anti-apartheid movement while in exile in Ireland and the United Kingdom, he also found time to become one of the founding fathers of the Irish civil liberties movement,” council director Mark Kelly said.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton also paid tribute to Prof Asmal.

“Kader was always immensely grateful for his Irish experiences which he acknowledged influenced his approach to building the new South Africa,” she said.