Amina Cachalia

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Amina Cachalia
Personal details
Born(1930-06-28)28 June 1930
Died31 January 2013(2013-01-31) (aged 82)
Spouse(s)Yusuf Cachalia
ChildrenGhaleb Cachalia, Coco Cachalia

Amina Cachalia, OLB (née Asvat; 28 June 1930 – 31 January 2013) was a South African anti-Apartheid activist, women's rights activist, and politician. She was a longtime friend and ally of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Her late husband was political activist Yusuf Cachalia. Her son, Ghaleb Cachalia, is a politician in the Democratic Alliance.[1]

Early life[edit]

Cachalia was born Amina Asvat, the ninth of eleven children[2] in Vereeniging, South Africa, on 28 June 1930.[3] Her parents were political activists Ebrahim and Fatima Asvat.[2] Her sister, Zainab Asvat, was an activist.[4] She began campaigning against Apartheid and racial discrimination as a teenager. She became a women's rights activist, often focusing on economic issues, such as financial independence for women.[5]

Political involvement[edit]

Amina and Yusuf Cachalia were friends of Nelson Mandela before his imprisonment at Robben Island in 1962. She became a staunch anti-apartheid activist. She spent fifteen years under house arrest throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[1] She was the treasurer of the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw), a leading supporter of the Federation of Transvaal Women, and a member of both the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and Transvaal Indian Congress during the Apartheid era.[6]

In 1995, Mandela asked Cachalia to marry him. At the time, he had been separated from his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Cachalia turned down Mandela's proposal because she said that "I'm my own person and that I had just recently lost my husband whom I had enormous regard for". Mandela divorced Madikizela-Mandela a year later and married Graça Machel in 1998.[7]

Cachalia was elected to the National Assembly of South Africa in the 1994 South African general election, the country's first with universal adult suffrage. In 2004, she was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Bronze for her contributions to gender and racial equality and democracy.[1]

After her death, in March 2013, her autobiography When Hope and History Rhyme was published.[7][8]

Death and funeral[edit]

Cachalia died at Milpark Hospital in Parktown West, Johannesburg, on 31 January 2013, aged 82.[1] The cause of death was complications following an emergency operation due to a perforated ulcer.

Her funeral was held in her home in Parkview, Johannesburg, according to traditional Muslim customs. It was attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, former First Lady Graça Machel, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and fellow activist Ahmed Kathrada, among others.


  1. ^ a b c d "Struggle stalwart Amina Cachalia dies". News24. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b "When Hope and History Rhyme – Amina Cachalia's autobiography". Polity. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Honorary Degree Citation: Amina Cachalia". University of the Witwatersrand. Archived from the original on 19 February 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Zainab Asvat". South African History Online. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Age of Reason: Amina Cachalia interview". BBC World Service. 23 December 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  6. ^ "SA pays tribute to Amina Cachalia". 1 February 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b Leonard, Charles (28 March 2013). "Amina Cachalia: The woman who said 'no' to Mandela". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Amina Cachalia: The poetry of her hope and history". Daily Maverick. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.