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Jonathan Jansen Remembers the Passion and Humanity of Kader Asmal

Kader Asmal

Jonathan Jansen, author of We Need to Talk, adds his voice to the tributes that have poured in for Kader Asmal, who passed away last week at the age of 76:

“Jonathan,” says the first cabinet minister to call me by my given name, “how are you?” This was an odd question coming from the other end of a telephone line. I was not friends with Kader Asmal and had only and always met him in the midst of small to large groups of people; so the touching first-name address and the inquiry after my health were strange indeed.

Strange, that is, if you did not know this savvy politician. It was a few days before the release of the matric exam results. He knew I would be publicly critical of the widely expected and hugely improbable escalation in the national grade 12 pass rate; a friendly call from the powerful minister of education to “Jonathan” would quite possibly soften him up and ensure as little negative media publicity as possible. Believe it or not, this is what I liked about the man, even if he did not get what he wanted in this case.

If I were president of the country, he would have been my first choice over and over again for minister of schools; he was hopelessly too interventionist to trust with higher education – there my first choice would always be Naledi Pandor. But whether it was water or schools, Kader Asmal brought an excitement to his portfolio that few other cabinet ministers could.

We Need to TalkOor bokdrolletjies en rosyntjies

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    June 27th, 2011 @16:21 #

    I went to the airport this morning, where there is an enormous billboard with his image on it. It took my breath away.


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