Azhar Cachalia was born in Edinburgh Scotland on 26th of June 1956. He attended school there and then later in Benoni, Gauteng province, South Africa. He matriculated at Damelin College in Johannesburg in 1974. Between 1975 and 1981 he studied science at the University of Durban Westville and law at the University of Witwatersrand.
Azhar was influenced in his political career by his father Ismail Mohamed Cachalia, who was a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly in 1994, and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC). During his studies at Wits Azhar Cachalia was active in Benoni Student Movement activities. In 1981 he was elected Vice-President of the Black Students Society at Wits. He was later detained with his brother Firoz, (who later became MEC for Safety and Security in the Gauteng Legislature) for three weeks and confined to the magisterial district of Benoni for two years. In 1983 he graduated from Wits with an LLB degree. When his banning order was lifted in June 1983, Azhar was elected to the executive of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). He was an office holder of the United Democratic Front (UDF) both provincially and nationally until 1990. At one stage he served as a National Treasurer of the UDF.he remained as the treasurer for 28 years in the UDF. In 1986 he became an attorney, and was detained for six weeks under the State of Emergency Regulations. A few months after this he was served with another restriction order, which confined him to the magisterial district of Benoni.
In 1987 the Security Branch of the South African Police detained him twice under the Emergency regulations. In February 1988 he was prohibited from participating in the activities of the UDF. In 1988 he joined the Cheadle law firm in Johannesburg as an attorney. He was one of the managing partners until 1996 when he resigned to become an MP. While working at Cheadle, Azhar studied towards a Higher Diploma in Income Tax Law.
In June 1994 he was appointed to serve on the Interim Advisory Team for the Minister of Safety and Security,Sydney Mufamadi. He also worked as a technical expert on the Constitutional Assembly, and then Committee on Security and Defence. He was also responsible for convening the team that drafted the New Police Act. On 8th of January 1996, he was appointed Secretary for Safety and Security, becoming a peer of the National Commissioner of Police, and chief policy advisor to the Minister of Safety and Security. In this capacity he was responsible for the government sub–committee overseeing matters relating to police and policing. He was also tasked with the implementation of the National Crime Prevention Strategy. Azhar has left his position in parliament and returned to the law profession as a Judge.Azhar Cachalia is married to Dr. Leila Patel, Welfare Director, and they have two daughters. Azhar currently stays in Johannesburg.
• A Cachalia. Secretary for Safety and Security [Online]. Available at: anc.org.za [Accessed 29 October 2009]
• Gail M. Gerhart, Teresa Barnes, Antony Bugg-Levine, Thomas Karis, Nimrod Mkele .From Protest to Challenge 4-Political Profiles (1882-1990) http://www.jacana.co.za/component/virtuemart/?keyword=from+protest+to+ch... (last accessed 08 October 2018)