Kader Asmal

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Kader Asmal "was born on October 8, 1934, in the small rural town of Stanger (in what was then the province of Natal). Young Asmal was raised in a vibrant, lower middle-class family. His mother was a home-maker while his father was a shopkeeper, a shop assistant and unemployed respectively. Although not overtly political, his parents encouraged lively debate in the family of 10.

"A consistent concern for human justice stems from Asmal’s childhood. Like the vast majority of South Africans then, his first brush with racism was as a teenager when a white shop-owner barred him from buying a newspaper. A transformative moment in his political understanding, according to Asmal, occurred when footage of Nazi concentration camp victims was shown to him, and he decided on a career in law in order to oppose such oppressive mentality. He gradually saw a link between this tragedy in European history and his own life under apartheid. A significant turning point for Asmal in the 50s Defiance Campaign era came when, as a politicized matric pupil and seeing the Campaign's leaders marching in prison uniforms through the dusty streets of Stanger, he responded by leading the school stay-at-home.

"Precluded from returning to his land of birth because of his political activities, Asmal began teaching at Trinity College. For the next 25 years, specializing in human rights, labour and international law, he lectured in Dublin and rose to Dean of the Faculty of Arts (1980-1986). In 1983 he received the Prix Unesco in recognition of his work in the advancement of human rights. On his return to South Africa, he became Professor of Human Rights at the University of the Western Cape (1990-1994)

"Throughout these years, as a founder of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement in London (1960) and founder and Vice-Chairperson (1963-1972) and then Chairperson (1972-1991) of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, Asmal effectively opposed apartheid on behalf of the ANC. He worked for SANROC and was vice-president of IDAF. Asmal also added his efforts to civil rights campaigns in other parts of the world, including Palestine and Northern Ireland, and served on international legal commissions.

"The popularizing of a culture of human rights throughout society has been a contemporary goal of Asmal’s. This he has done via his service on the ANC's structures, especially the NEC, and through his chairing of the Council of the University of the North, to which he was appointed in December 1992. In the April 1994 general election Asmal was 22nd in the ranking for the ANC's National Assembly, and became a member of parliament. He was appointed Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in May 1994, a position he held until 1999. He was appointed as a minister of Education in the June 1999 elections. He is the current incumbent in this role." [1]

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  1. Kader Asmal, accessed February 23, 2009.