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Ebrahim Ebrahim joined the liberation movement as a youth activist in 1952, and participated in the Congress of the People Campaign which drew up and adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955. He joined the armed wing of the ANC in 1961, was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to 15 years on Robben Island. After his release in 1979, he was banned and restricted to his home town in Durban. The following year on instruction of the ANC, he went into exile and, operating from the frontline states bordering South Africa, was responsible for the political underground.
In December 1986, he was kidnapped from Swaziland by the South African Security Forces and detained in South Africa where he was severely tortured. He was charged for high treason and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Robben Island. In 1991, the appeal court ruled that his kidnapping from a foreign country was illegal, and that the South African court had no jurisdiction to try him.
Later the same year he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC and also became a member of the National Working Committee. During the CODESA negotiations Ebrahim was tasked by the ANC to establish the Patriotic Front, which aimed to achieve consensus on the negotiation process and on the final outcome that would lead to the establishment of a democratic South Africa.
Ebrahim was elected a member of the National Assembly of Parliament in 1994 and in August 1997 was elected Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee and also became a member of the Joint Select Committee on Intelligence. He resigned from Parliament in July 2002 to take up the position of Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the Deputy President of South Africa. He was actively involved in conflict resolution efforts between Israel and Palestine, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as in Burundi, Kosovo, Bolivia, and Nepal.
In 2006 Ebrahim was appointed as Head of International Affairs at the African National Congress Head Office. In May 2009 he was appointed as Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and continues to serve as a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.
SAIIA has been voted the leading think tank in Sub-Saharan Africa for the third consecutive year in the University of Pennsylvania's Global Think Tank Survey.