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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Desai, Shabaan Rissiek (Barney)

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Barney Desai was born on 10 April 1932 in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. He grew up as Indian, but in 1957 was 'reclassified' as Coloured.

He assisted in the production of Spark, a short-lived newspaper, around the time of the Defiance Campaign and he was banned as a consequence. Desai served as the Vice-president of the South African Coloured People's Congress and in 1962 was the first Coloured person to be elected to the Cape Town City Council, however the government prohibited him from taking his seat. From 1961 to 1966 he served as the President of the South African Coloured People's Congress which initially formed an alliance with the ANC. The CPC was later allied to the PAC.

In 1963 he left the country and in 1970 he qualified as a barrister in Britain, meanwhile associating himself with the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in exile. In 1990 he was appointed Secretary for Publicity and Information for the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania. He was the first exile to return to South Africa after the unbanning of the liberation movements in February 1990.

Desai co-authored The Killing of the Imam which examined the death in detention of Iman Abdullah Haron.

Top level talks between the government and the Pan Africanist Congress took place in August 1992, to establish ways to include the PAC in constitutional negotiations. Gora Ibrahim of the PAC's international affairs department and Desai as publicity secretary represented the PAC.

The PAC believed the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) was oversized, undemocratic and overburdened with issues and hoped, through talks with the government, that an alternative forum would be created in which it could participate.

He continued to represent the PAC until his untimely death in October 1997.

Source: Karis, T. and Carter, G.M. 1977. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964, Volume 4. Hoover Institution Press: Stanford. P. 22

Joyce, Peter. 1999. A Concise Dictionary of South African Biography. Francolin Publishers: Cape Town.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.