This is an account of the life experiences of a South African of Indian descent who was fortunate enough to be a part of some of South Africa’s most important changes in the transition from apartheid to a constitutional democracy. The journey started with the arrival of Hassen Ebrahim’s grandfather as a penniless and illegal immigrant from India.
He started a family in Marabastad, where Hassen grew up. Hassen’s political consciousness grew at Westville University in 1976 and led him to join the ANC. He was forced into exile and became part of the political leadership of the ANC’s underground structures. While in Gaborone, Botswana, he completed his law degree and practised law. Hassen’s experience in the ANC, however, only got off the ground in 1985 after the Kabwe Conference.
The focus of Hassen’s underground work covers three specific areas. The first is Soweto and the formation of the Youth Congressesand what came to be known as Organs of People’s Popular Power. The second focus is Lenasia, where the first Area Politico-Military structure was established. Its military structure was responsible for a large number of successful armed propaganda operations, the last operation of which took place in December 1989 when two cadres were killed in the premature explosion of a limpet mine. The third area of focus is the first Regional Politico-Military Unit that was established in Pretoria. This was the first non-racial structure of the underground Hassen established that gave leadership to the greater Pretoria area.
After the unbanning of the ANC, Hassen joined the PWV Region of the ANC in 1991 to establish the first legal branches of the ANC. In 1992 he became part of the negotiation of our Interim, and later, the final constitution. With this opportunity, he had the good fortune of working with some of the great leaders that shaped South Africa’s transition and being part of some of the key defining moments. After this, Hassen spent the next ten years in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development implementing the new constitution.
Since 2011, Hassen has been working internationally on various missions, mainly on behalf of the UN, primarily doing mediation work in countries coming out of conflict. He has also worked extensively on different constitution-making exercises.