Multiparty Negotiating Forum

Kader Asmal

Kader Asmal (born 8 October 1934) is a South African politician. He was a professor of human rights at the University of the Western Cape, chairman of the council of the University of the North and vice-president of the African Association of International Law. He is married to Louise Parkinson and has two sons. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Early life

Kader grew up in Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal and while still a school-boy he met with Chief Albert Luthuli who inspired him towards human rights. In 1959, Kader qualified as a teacher, moved to London where he enrolled at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Legal career

While in London he started the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and when he joined the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland as a teacher of human rights, labour and international law, he started the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement. Kader qualified as a barrister in both the London and Dublin Bars and received degrees from both the London School of Economics (LL.M. (Lond.)) and Trinity College, Dublin (M.A. (Dubl.)). He was a law professor at Trinity College for 27 years, specializing in human rights, labor, and international law. In 1983, he was awarded the Prix Unesco for his involvement in the international inquiries into human rights violations. Kader served on the African National Congress' constitutional committee from 1986.

Political career

In 1990, Asmal returned to South Africa and shortly afterwards was elected to the African National Congress' National Executive Committee. In 1993, he served as a member of the negotiating team of the African National Congress at the Multiparty Negotiating Forum. In May 1994, he was elected to the National Assembly, and joined the cabinet as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry.

In 1996, the World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa awarded Asmal their Gold Medal for his conservation work. During his tenure he supported the Global Water Partnership (GWP). As Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry he spearheaded the recognition of the concept of "the environment as a prime water user." While serving as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, he also served as the chairman of the World Commission on Dams (1997-2001).

In 1999, after the South African general elections, he became Minister of Education. Among his initiatives as Minister of Education was the launching in 2001 of the South African History Project "to promote and enhance the conditions and status of the learning and teaching of history in the South African schooling system, with the goal of restoring its material position and intellectual purchase in the classroom".

On 5 October, 2007, he severely criticised Robert Mugabe for the situation in Zimbabwe, lamenting that he had not spoken previously, at the launch of a book Through the Darkness — A Life in Zimbabwe, by Judith Todd, daughter of former Southern Rhodesia prime minister Garfield Todd, an opponent of white minority rule under Ian Smith.


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