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November 15: From the ANC to the Cabinet

November 15, 2015
9815989424_3c31b41587Ronald Kasrils, a South African communist and African National Congress activist who became Minister for Intelligence Services in the post-apartheid government, was born in Johannesburg on this date in 1938. Kasrils was a director of TV advertisements when he was radicalized by the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and joined the ANC and the South African Communist Party. Banned by the government in 1962, he was a founding member of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and became its intelligence chief in 1983. Kasrils is internationally known for his 2001 “Declaration of Conscience by South Africans of Jewish Descent,” which protested Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and endorsed a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. In 2006, his written comparisons of Israeli soldiers and Nazis got him summoned before the South African Human Rights Commission for allegations of hate speech; the Commission ruled that his “call for peaceful negotiations is not compatible with the interpretation that he is calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. Neither can his comments reasonably be associated with Holocaust denials.” Kasrils is the author of books on Bertrand Russell and poetry, of an autobiography, Armed and Dangerous (1993), and of a book about his anti-apartheid wife, The Unlikely Secret Agent, which won the 2011 Alan Paton Award. He is a vocal critic of the ANC under Jacob Zuma’s leadership, which he has accused of “police state depravity.” “May Israelis wake up and see reason, as happened in South Africa, and negotiate peace.” —Ronnie Kasrils