Dullah Omar

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Person.png Dullah Omar  Rdf-icon.png
(Lawyer)
Dullah Omar.jpg
South African Justice Minister in Nelson Mandela's administration
Born 26 May 1934
Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa
Died 13 March 2004 (Age 69)
Nationality South African
Alma mater University of Cape Town

Abdullah Mohamed Omar, better known as Dullah Omar, was a South African anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and a South African Government minister from 1994 until his death.

Dullah Omar was the driving force behind the establishment of the Community Law Centre of the Western Cape, which focused on research and advocacy on human rights and democracy. In 1990 he became the Centre's director which became a major contributor to policy formulation leading to South Africa’s new democratic constitutional order. As an anti-apartheid human rights lawyer Dullah Omar provided legal counsel to trade unions, people victimised by apartheid laws, political prisoners, civic and religious organisations. At the height of apartheid, he played a key role in the formation of the United Democratic Front.

At the start of the process of normalisation of South African politics in 1990, Dullah Omar became the Chairperson of the African National Congress in the Western Cape and participated in negotiations for the first universal franchise elections that were held in 1994. He served as Minister of Justice in President Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet (1994 – 1999) and later as Minister of Transport under President Thabo Mbeki from 1999 until his death in March 2004.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Observatory, Cape Town,[2] to immigrant parents from Gujarat in western India, Dullah Omar was a respected member of the Muslim community.[3] He attended the University of Cape Town and graduated with a law degree in 1957.[4]

Anti-apartheid activities

Dullah Omar defended members of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and African National Congress (ANC), was a member of the Unity Movement throughout the Early 70's and 80's before he joined and became a leading member of the United Democratic Front and was a human rights activist throughout his life.

His movement restricted by "banning orders" and detained without trial repeatedly, he also survived plots by the apartheid government to assassinate him. In 1989, he became a spokesman of Nelson Mandela, during the last months of the latter's imprisonment.

Government minister

In 1994, Dullah Omar became Minister of Justice in South Africa in Nelson Mandela's ANC government, and was the first cabinet minister appointed Acting President in the absence of both the President and Deputy President from South Africa. He played a major role in transforming the South African justice system.

In 1999, following the election of Thabo Mbeki as President, Omar became the Minister of Transport, a post that he held until his death from cancer.

Of Indian descent and a lifelong resident of the Western Cape, he was married with three children, and was buried with official honours, and in accordance with Muslim tradition on the day of his death.



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