Amina Cachalia (b. Amina Asvat; June 28, 1930 Vereeniging, South Africa – d. January 31, 2013, Johannesburg, South Africa) was a longtime friend and ally of Nelson Mandela. Her late husband was political activist Yusuf Cachalia.
Cachalia was born Amina Asvat, the ninth of eleven children in Vereeniging, South Africa, on June 28, 1930. Her parents were political activists Ebrahim and Fatima Asvat. She began campaigning against Apartheid and racial discrimination as a teenager. She became a women's rights activist, often focusing on economic issues, such as financial independence for women.
Amina and Yusuf Cachalia were friends of Nelson Mandela before his imprisonment at Robben Island in 1962. She became a staunch anti-apartheid activist. She spent fifteen years under house arrest throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She was the treasurer of the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw), a leading supporter of the Federation of Transvaal Women, and a member of both the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and Transvaal Indian Congress during the Apartheid era.
In 1995, Mandela asked Cachalia to marry him. At the time, he had been separated from his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Cachalia turned down Mandela's proposal because she said that "I'm my own person and that I had just recently lost my husband whom I had enormous regard for". Mandela divorced Madikizela-Mandela a year later and married Graca Machel in 1998.
Cachalia was elected to the National Assembly of South Africa in the 1994 South African general election, the country's first with universal adult suffrage. In 2004, she was awarded the Order of Luthuli in Bronze for her contributions to gender and racial equality and democracy.
After her death, in March 2013, her autobiography When Hope and History Rhyme was published.
Cachalia died at Milpark Hospital in Parktown West, Johannesburg, January 31, 2013, aged 82. The cause of death was complications following an emergency operation due to a perforated ulcer.
Her funeral was held in her home in Parkview, Johannesburg, according to traditional Muslim customs. It was attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, ANC Deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, former First Lady Graca Machel, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and fellow activisti Ahmed Kathrada, among others.