I was told before that celebrities and very good friends tend to leave us in groups of three. This was not exactly the case, but last August, I lost a dear friend, also from the diplomatic circle, and just recently, another one. Ironically, I hosted both for dinner at our residence in Pretoria ten years ago.

I met Aziz on a close and personal manner one night at the residence of the dean of the Diplomatic Corps in 2001, and since then, we built a strong connection. The then South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs graced our National Day and so many other events, including my farewell party as Panama’s first ambassador to the African country, which began at 6 pm and ended way past midnight in February 2003. Pahad was one of the last guests to leave. That evening, I was unofficially appointed as South Africa’s Honorary Consul to Panama, which formalized and happened in August 2004.

Aziz Pahad headed the first South African State visit to Panama in September 2007. I had the great honor to show him around my country. We had good laughs together during the occasion, and we were introduced to the lady who became his wife years later, Professor Angina Parekh Pahad.

In 2010, after being appointed for the second time as ambassador to South Africa, we met again. He was still part of DIRCO, that time as an advisor. This made so much sense because Aziz was a person who connected so well at a diplomatic level with others and was extremely knowledgeable in international affairs. Aziz was passionate about the Middle East, especially about the Palestinian cause. In all honesty, he was my mentor when it comes to my awareness of the Arab world. In times when many tend to blame the cause of today’s conflicts on members of said ethnicity and their national groups, my respect, tolerance, and understanding of the Arab culture allow me to raise my voice on their behalf.

On Friday, September 29th, minutes before I went to sleep, I read the shocking news of his passing. I wept and immediately wrote a condolence text to Angina. Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, I couldn’t attend the funeral the next morning. I am sure that wherever Aziz is now, he forgave my absence. I already miss him and his long, interesting narrations about everything. Aziz, my brother, you will be gone but never forgotten.

by Rodrigo Chiari


Photo credit: News24 | Daily Maverick