Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool
Ebrahim Rasool is currently South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America. This appointment is the culmination of a distinguished record of Public Service. Recently he served as a Member of Parliament in South Africa’s National Assembly and Special Advisor to the State President.
However, he is more remembered as the Premier or Governor of the Western Cape Province, a socially fragmented Province, which he worked towards cohering with a vision of making it “A Home for All”. This vision was underpinned with an economic and social strategy (iKapa elihlumayo – the Cape that we grow and share) that was instrumental in, amongst others, attracting foreign investment into the Province worth R8 billion (approximately $1 billion), achieving the highest provincial GDP growth rate of 5, 8%, and making significant strides towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) in education, health (especially in combatting HIV and AIDS) and service delivery.
Ebrahim Rasool has built up extensive experience of Government having led politically various Departments like Health, Welfare, Finance and Economic Development in the capacity of Provincial Minister, and excelled not only in the services rendered by these departments, but in the thoughtful approach he brought to the transformation and reform of them from racially exclusive to integrated services, catering for all people.
For such contributions to South Africa, Ambassador Rasool has been the recipient of a number of awards: “Social Services Leader of the Year” Award in 1995 from the African Investment Group; “Visionary Leadership and Public Good” Award from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists in 2008; “Commitment and Leadership in the Fight Against Crime” from Business Against Crime (2009); The 2005 London Financial Times “Foreign Direct Investment (Africa) Personality of the Year” Award; The “Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights” presented to him by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 1998; and “Indonesian Diasporean of 2012” Award by the President of Indonesia.
He has a long history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle starting at High School in 1976 and including leadership in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the African National Congress (ANC). He was Provincial Leader of the ANC and served on its National Executive Committee for 7 years. He has had to make sacrifices like spending time in prison, where in 1987 at Pollsmoor Prison, he met Nelson Mandela for the first time, as well as being placed under restrictions and house arrest by the apartheid government.
His social and political involvement has also been through faith-driven Movements. He was a founder of The Call of Islam, an anti apartheid Muslim organisation that revolutionised the way Muslims in South Africa thought about democracy, human rights, gender equality, inclusivity, relations with people of other faiths, ideologies and cultures, as well as provide new methodologies of struggle. He was also instrumental in leading the Interfaith Movement, both in the anti apartheid struggle and through the transition, convening 2 National Interfaith Conferences to help shape the emergent South African Constitution. These commitments were tested when, as a political leader in Cape Town, he had to confront extremist Muslim forces who were terrorising the community and threatened his life. In this he pioneered innovative ways to confront extremism.
Founder of the World for All Foundation, Ambassador Rasool is active in rethinking the intellectual tools for co-operative relations between faiths, cultures and communities at a global level, and establishing dignity, inclusion and equity for those marginalised and excluded. The World for All is especially active among Muslim Minority communities to try and transfer the lessons from South Africa, and increasingly is acting as a conduit for lessons from the example of Nelson Mandela to the Muslim heartlands in need of freedom, democracy and human rights, through a reinterpretation of Muslim theology.
During the Arab Uprisings Ebrahim Rasool was part of a small team of Muslim intellectuals engaged in discussions with constitution writers from countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and others, and his contribution was regarded as that of a political practitioner who had implemented a seamless relationship between Islam and living democratically, with human rights and in freedom. In 2013 he convened a Muslim Minority Leaders’ Colloquium in Paris, drawing together delegates from 22 countries under the Banner: “Living Where We Don’t Make the Rules” and trying to find formulae for co-existince in Shared Spaces for Muslim minorities.
Ebrahim Rasool is regularly requested to speak at Conferences and Conventions, seminars and public meetings. His Governance, Political and Intellectual experience is the basis for keynote addresses, commencement speeches, panel discussions and lectures he is required to deliver. In 2014 alone, he delivered the 20th Annual Hesburgh Lecture at the University of Notre Dame, the Commencement Address at Roosevelt University, Panel Remarks at the Faith In Action Breakfast to open the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit convened by President Obama, the Keynote Address at the British Muslim Council AGM in London, the Strategy Presentation for the African Growth and Opportunities Act Retreat, presenting Africa’s Energy needs at the US-Africa Energy Ministerial Meeting in Addis Ababa, among many others.
He also writes regularly, having recently contributed a chapter to a forthcoming book on the Afro-Arab Renaissance titled “the Pharoah Returns – the ‘Politics of Order and the Muslim Yearning for Freedom.” He has recently started on a book that consolidates some of the speeches he has made over the last 10 years. In the course of his extensive public life, he has been a regular feature in the public media. In the last year, following the death of Nelson Mandela, Rasool has been called upon by media such as CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, Fox, MSNBC, and others to comment on the life of Nelson Mandela. He is a regular feature on the African World, SABC and other electronic and print media.
Ebrahim Rasool studied at the University of Cape Town where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature and Economic History, and a Higher Diploma in Education. In 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, by the Roosevelt University in Chicago, USA and the Award for his Lifetime Commitment to Human Rights by Shared Interest in New York.
He is married to Rosieda Shabodien, and they have two children, Tahrir and Tanwir.