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Abdullah Mohamed Omar (1934 - 2004)

The Order of Luthuli in

Abdullah Mohamed Omar (1934 - 2004) Awarded for:
Dedicating his life to the struggle against apartheid and for his excellent contribution to the building of a democratic, non-sexist, non-racial and just South Africa.
Profile of Abdullah Mohamed Omar

Popularly known as ‘Dullah’, Abdullah Mohamed Omar was born in 1934 in Observatory, Cape Town and studied law at the University of Cape Town. He graduated with an LLB degree in 1957. He was admitted as an attorney in 1960 and as an advocate of the Supreme Court in 1982.

While practicing as both an attorney and an advocate, he served deprived communities, being involved in civil and criminal defence work and handling housing, pass laws, labour and work- related cases. He was a defence lawyer in many political trials involving members of banned organisations being charged with resistance activities against the apartheid regime.

Omar was Chairperson of the of United Democratic Front (UDF) Western Cape region in 1987 and 1988, and Vice President from 1988 until the UDF’s dissolution in 1991. He was a national Vice-President and Western Cape Regional President of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, a trustee of the South African Legal Defence Fund. He served as director of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape until his appointment as South Africa’s first Minister of Justice in a democratically elected government in 1994.

He was elected to the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee in 1991 and as Chairperson of the ANC in the Western Cape in 1996. He was a member of the constitutional committee of the legal department of the ANC from 1990 to 1994, and a member of the ANC’s negotiation team leading to the constitutional and political settlement in South Africa. Omar served as Minister of Justice from 1994 to1999, and was also the Minister responsible for intelligence. He played a key role in the overhaul of South Africa’s Intelligence services. As Justice Minister, his key stewardship role in the setting up and activities of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be remembered for years to come.

He was appointed Minister of Transport in June 1999, after the country’s second democratic election. Omar was honoured with Doctorates of Law from the University of Fort Hare in 1993, the University of Durban-Westville in 1996, and the University of the Western Cape in 2004. He was also honoured with awards in the United States, Chile and Germany for his contribution to the struggle for human rights in South Africa.