Per­sua­sive voice for SA in Wash­ing­ton

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - RY­LAND FISHER

FOR­MER West­ern Cape pre­mier Ebrahim Ra­sool says his life and his health have im­proved since he left lo­cal pol­i­tics. But for the past few years he has been watch­ing – with con­cern and from afar – the tra­vails of the ANC, the or­gan­i­sa­tion of which he used to be pro­vin­cial leader.

“I’ve lost 20 ki­los, my blood su­gar is un­der con­trol, my blood pres­sure is nor­mal, my wife loves me again, I’ve seen my chil­dren in their for­ma­tive years, and the stress has re­duced enor­mously,” he said.

“I’m in a very happy space, but as peo­ple who contributed to the Strug­gle, we can never be sat­is­fied if our cre­ation is not per­fect. That rest­less­ness stays with me and that’s the am­bi­gu­ity in my life. I know that I am suc­cess­fully do­ing what I love do­ing, but some­thing con­tin­ues to gnaw at your soul, and I have to re­solve that.”

Ra­sool is in South Africa mainly to in­tro­duce his son to lo­cal Mus­lim tra­di­tions, and to visit fam­ily. He also cel­e­brated his birth­day with a spit braai last Fri­day.

He is ex­pected to de­liver a lec­ture at UCT on ex­trem­ism next month and is pro­mot­ing his World For All Foun­da­tion.

After he left the pre­mier­ship, he acted briefly as a spe­cial ad­viser to Kgalema Mot­lanthe, who later be­came pres­i­dent of South Africa. Ra­sool was then sent briefly to Par­lia­ment be­fore he re­ceived a call from Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of­fer­ing him the am­bas­sador­ship to the US.

Ra­sool said the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion was in­formed by a 2006 visit to South Africa by a then un­known US sen­a­tor named Barack Obama.

All the politi­cians Obama tried to see at the time were too busy, so Ra­sool, who was then West­ern Cape pre­mier, spent about two-and-a-half hours with him.

“I gave him as a gift a litho­graph of Nel­son Man­dela’s first speech on the day he was re­leased.

“Two years later, the un­known sen­a­tor from Illi­nois was elected as pres­i­dent of the United States. Shortly after that I got a call from Pres­i­dent Zuma.

“He said to me. ‘It looks like we messed up but you seem to be one of the few peo­ple who ac­tu­ally met Obama. Can you go to Wash­ing­ton?’ And that’s how I ended up in Wash­ing­ton.

“It was won­der­ful. As we were sit­ting very re­laxed in our in­for­mal out­fits on the aero­plane, we landed at Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the pi­lot said, ‘Can am­bas­sador Ra­sool and his fam­ily please come to the front?’ There was a big pro­to­col ser­vice to take us off the plane. One of the of­fi­cials then told me, ‘Nor­mally am­bas­sadors wait three months be­fore they go to the Oval Of­fice to hand in their cre­den­tials, but Pres­i­dent Obama is very aware that it is Ra­madaan in 10 days’ time, so one day be­fore Ra­madaan, you will be in the Oval of­fice to present your cre­den­tials.’

“That was a record time. Nine days later I was in the Oval of­fice, meet­ing him and chat­ting away.”

Since his term ended in 2015, Ra­sool has been a scholar in res­i­dence at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, where he has been re­search­ing, writ­ing, lec­tur­ing and en­gag­ing with peo­ple from some of the trou­ble spots in the world.


For­mer ANC pro­vin­cial leader Ebrahim Ra­sool at a press brief­ing an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion in 2008.

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