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Face to Face with Minister Naledi Pandoor

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This article is an old article published in the Boorhaanol Magazines of the early 2000s. Naledi Pandoor is currently the South African Minister of Science and Technology. Still a highly recommended read.  As a high-ranking politician who needs to be reckoned with in her chosen arena, it is not sur-prising to find Naledi Pandor a woman ofstrong capabilities and tough-mindedness. The ability to sayprecisely that which enters her head never escapes her, even to her own detriment, at times. Toughness coupled with a loving, intellectual tradition is two very noble qualities she inherited fromher proud pedigree. Naledi also possesses a care and compassion that

serves as a healing balm to the human predicament.  Who so nobly to the character and destiny of the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces? "My father", came the firm words from the daughter of Z K Matthews, Deputy-Minister of Safety & Security and member of the IFP, "taught me to be honest and never to be afraid to voice my opinion, even if it is different. He taught me to discuss and talk through issues; but at all times to be honest. If I disagree I must say what's in my head".


Opinionated? Pandor thinks she is. "No", says Deputy Chairperson of Committees, Farouk Cassiem. "Naledi sticks to her views aggressively, but she is upright and highly principled. She hails from a noble pedigree which can serve humanity at any level of our society". Naledi certainly inherited the warm care and love from her mother, the ever-guiding light in her life. Again this quality has been reiterated in high-ranking political circles. "Naledi is not only sharp-minded and extremely hardworking but full of kindness and compassion", says Deputy-Speaker of Parlaiment, Ms Baleke Mbete. "Naledi will not spare herself. She is always ready to accept a challenge. When she was the Whip in parliament she listened well and looked after the interest of her group. She comes with solutions such as helping MP's to look after their financial affairs." Naledi is always struck by the strength, tenacity and discipline of women in building the society. "Women have been far greater heroines than they are victims. Women made significant contributions to the South African society", says this tireless activist.

Prof Fazlur Rahman Ansari, after whom her eldest son was named, said in one of his 1972 lectures that "women are the starting point and the last fortress of every culture, every society and every civilization. Once this fortress is bro¬ken no culture, civilization or society can remain". Naledi's shy and reticent mother was this tower of strength and a guide during the most trying years of her eminent father's exile. Her mother kept the hearth and home warm and secure whether it was in South Africa or the exiled years in England. "We must not exclude ourselves as Muslim women. Our input is important. Our organised formations must redefine the identity of the woman from victim to that of heroines. We must be participants. Society is moving dramatically too fast. Technology is overtaking everything therefore we must read and be knowledgeable. After all our beloved Prophet (SAW) directed us to seek knowledge throughout our life".

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Naledi is urging women especially to become intellectually strong forces in order to deal with the fast moving pace in our technological soci¬ety. And Ms Pandor bears this erudite intel¬lectual tradition with great courage, conviction and dedication to the upliftment of our people. Is it then surprising to know the calibre that constituted her honourable line of descent? We must turn to Naledi's father, the doyen of black academics and intellectuals; the first black per¬son to be conferred with a Ph.D, teacher and mentor to the ANC youth movement in the fifties and sixties (now the leaders in govern¬ment): the honourable ZK Matthews.

But how does she balance a high-ranking public life with that of being a mother of four children and wife to businessman, Shareef? "I don't think I'm balancing too well. But our strong values of Islam help to cover gaps that arise from my absence because the children and Shareef cope well under the circumstances." Tough decisions had to be made. "We agreed that I do two things: work and home. An extensive, social life would have a very negative effect on the home. I have to live with that decision.” And her patient friend and heart throb?  "Shareef was kind and he liked me. I'm a difficult person, you know?", confessed the 21 -year long English teacher with a twinkle in her eye. Shareef and Naledi taught at a rural school in Botswana her return with an MA in I dui action from the University of London. While Shareef declared his love and intention to marry, Dutch-speaking Sheikh Ali Mustapha from Suranam was ready to read the marriage sermonn. "You must get married sooner rather than later", said the Sheikh. "Naledi, you would love being a Muslim. You are always concerned about others," urged the Sheikh. The couple decided that it would not be good for them to live with two religions. And Shareef was going to stick to his.

"My parents said God is God. As long as you worship Him we will support you and the Islamic principles are universal. Certainly, Islam demands much more of you in terms of observance", says Nadia Pandor, her name given to her by her in-laws. And out of this union sprouted forth four beautiful and independent issues. Seventeen year-old Fazlur is the eldest. He looks after Aisha (14), Suraya (12) and Haroon (9), naturally named after Ash-Shaheed Imam Haroon. The children are independent and make sure that they adhere to Fazlur's instruction faithfully. He is the protector of his younger siblings while their parents are at work. The children normally decide the social agenda and work out the program. Naledi and Shareef hop along. "The children mainly want to talk. They want attention. So while I cook every Sunday they talk to me. And we visit my parents regularly every Sunday morning to take the newspapers to them." Suraya also likes to cook. Aisha reads  passionately like her mother. Of course all have to join forces to keep Haroon in check to ensure that the plans run smoothly for the day. How does Nadia relax? "I don't walk as often as I did. I'm just too tired especially after flying so often. But I'm hoping to re-organize my schedule and return to the gym. I love listening to music very much too. Nothing relaxes me more than when Haroon asks to be fetched from his friend's house and said that he missed me!"

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