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Apartheid fighter Kader Asmal dies

JOHANNESBURG -- Kader Asmal, a prominent member of South Africa's governing African National Congress who pressed his party to keep its democratic promises, died Wednesday, said former President Nelson Mandela's office. He was 76.

According to local news reports, he died in a Cape Town hospital after a heart attack.

In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation called Asmal a "close associate" of Mandela who "struggled for decades in South Africa and in exile for an end to apartheid and for the achievement of a constitutional democracy in which all, regardless of gender, race or political affiliation would be regarded as equals." Asmal led anti-apartheid protests as a high school student in rural eastern South Africa. He later left for Britain and Ireland, where he continued anti-apartheid activism, and studied and taught law.

He returned to South Africa in 1990 and participated in negotiations that ended apartheid. After South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994, he served in the Cabinet.

Asmal occasionally was publicly rebuked by the ANC after raising concerns about party stances he feared threatened democracy.

Earlier this month, he spoke out against what he called an "appalling" ANC bill under which reporters could be jailed for publishing information that officials want kept secret. Critics say the information bill is too broad to justify its aim of fighting spying and protecting sensitive information. It has so far stalled in parliament, which is overwhelmingly controlled by the ANC.

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