Intellectual inheritance of Dullah Omar

The CHR’s humanities hub on the Cape Flats, located at the College of Cape Town, Athlone, is named in honour of Dullah Omar, and is known as the Dullah Omar Centre for Critical Thought in African Humanities (DOCCTAH).

A major figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, a champion of the non-racial and the first Minister of Justice in democratic South Africa, Dullah Omar carried into politics the best traditions of knowledge and social commitment. His is a legacy that bears the traces of a deep thinking of law and its relation to human subjectivity and society. This is particularly evident in his role in forming the Community Law Centre at UWC in the late 1980s, under the leadership of Professor Jakes Gerwel, who was then rector of UWC. A notable achievement of the Law Centre is that it drafted elements of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996).

At the height of the student struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, Omar guided countless youth in their ambitions to overthrow apartheid, but always by insisting on the desire for education and knowledge. Omar is symptomatic of several major strands of thought that brought together students of Athlone and the surrounding townships of Gugulethu, Langa, and Nyanga. He argued steadfastly that the non-racial needed to be enacted, as much as it needed to be imagined and thought. And he stressed that the desire for the non-racial had to be borne out of a struggle, not only to destroy apartheid, but to build something new in its wake. This is a vision that can be tracked through a number of intellectuals and political thinkers from the Cape Flats, many of whom left in their wake intellectual histories and passions that demand to be rekindled.