Dr Essop Pahad’s memoirs

Dr Essop Pahad’s memoirs

The Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) at the University of Johannesburg is proud to announce the publication of Committed for Life: A Memoir by Dr Essop Pahad.

Dr Pahad, who sadly passed away on 6 July 2023 when the book was in production, was the founding Chairperson of the CACS Board, and later served as a Distinguished Research Fellow, remaining in that position until his death.

CACS worked closely with Meg Pahad (Dr Pahad’s widow), who typed the manuscript, helped to sort out the chronology of events and the names of protagonists, as well as the accuracy of quotations.

Reedwaan Vally of Real African Publishers promptly took up the task of publishing the memoir, and bore our constant demands for tight timelines with aplomb.  

The Centre extends its thanks to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who wrote the foreword. Further gratitude is due to Angela McClelland, who edited the manuscript.  

A launch, jointly hosted by CACS and the Pahad family, will be held soon. More events to honour Dr Pahad are being planned.


Born in the old Transvaal town of Schweizer Reneke, Essop Pahad started on a path of political activism from his parents’ flat in Becker Street in Ferreirastown, Johannesburg, where an all-welcome policy prevailed and visionaries of the Congress Alliance, such as Yusuf Dadoo, Walter Sisulu, O.R. Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada were regular visitors. His parents instilled in the family strong anti-racist principles and a genuine concern for all human beings regardless of race, class or religion.

A graduate of the ‘Congress School’ in Johanneburg, Essop’s growing commitment to social justice was nurtured by teachers who were among the struggle’s most eminent leaders. An executive member of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress, Essop was banned in 1964 and went into exile in the UK where he was recruited into the South African Communist Party (SACP). In 1973 he studied at the Lenin Party School in Moscow and then worked in Prague, representing the SACP on the editorial board of the World Marxist Review for a decade. During this time he was sent by the ANC for military training with Umkhonto we Sizwe in Angola, which he was unable to complete as he contracted malaria.

A Life Committed is the memoir of a revolutionary whose diverse experience with other progressive people and movements, local and international, enabled him to deepen his understanding of how to better face the challenges confronting South Africa, Africa and the world. The book is spiced with anecdotes from his impressive memory archive, and lightened by his mischievous sense of humour. Profiles of his mentors and friends from liberation movements and workers’ parties provide insight into the extent of the fierce integrity, compassion and humanity of the author.

About the author

Dr Essop Goolam Pahad held a BA in Political Science from the University of the Witwatersrand, and an MA in African Politics and a PhD in History from the University of Sussex. He was a long-standing member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, and the Central Committee and Politbureau of the SACP. Essop was Minister in the Presidency of South Africa from 1999 to 2008, heading the Government Communications and Information System. He was also responsible for co-ordinating interministerial activities in support of youth, women, children, and persons with disabilities. He was also Chair of the Board of the South African Democracy Education Trust from 2000, the Board of the SA/Mali Timbuktu Manuscripts Trust from 2003, and an executive board member of the SA 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee from 2004. Dr Pahad was a Distinguished Research Fellow of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

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