Reader Karabo Nkoli remembers meeting “Uncle Kathy”

By Drum Digital
29 March 2017

As we sat down, I told him of how he had inspired me to write a book at the age of 14, he quickly jumped almost off his chair and looked shocked, and I remember how I laughed.

I find myself truly humbled to know that Uncle Kathy treasured my visit to him that he actually wrote of it in Conversations With A Gentle Soul, which can be found on page 59 in the book.

On the 30 September 2016 I was honoured to spend almost two hours and 30 minutes with Uncle Kathy. I saw this strong 87-year old political prisoner, struggle stalwart and activist Mr Ahmed Kathrada himself standing at the door just to welcome me with great love and care; he opened his arms to hug me.

Right there, I knew I now had a grandfather I never had, as Uncle Kathy became my political grandfather as I looked up to him in almost everything in the current affairs our youth are facing and gave me hope to help me change the lives of young South Africans for the better.

He said he was quite inspired and amazed that a young man like me could write a book at such an age, as he only published his first book at the age of 70 which was in 1999.

He told me about his childhood and I became more inspired and courageous to help bring change in our youth in our country, when Mr Kathrada told me that he joined politics and the Youth Communist League at the age of 12 years.

At that moment I realised that Mr Kathrada and I actually had many similarities when I realised how he became active in politics at the age of 12 and an active citizen at the age of 14.

And I recall that as an unexplainable blessing because I was with my mentor. When I asked him about how does he see leadership he said, “Well one cannot be a leader when he’s not educated, as it is through education one has power to influence society. “

We then had a book exchange ceremony and he said that I’m now his friend and comrade, and he laughed as usual. I signed his copy of my book Whispers of Life and he signed my copy of his book Triumph Of The Human Spirit. Mr Kathrada then opened Triumph Of The Human Spirit on page 9 whereby he told me about Michelle Britz who had leukemia and had two wishes, to visit Robben Island and meet with Nelson Mandela before she died. And when Mr Kathrada told this story he talked of it in a very reflective mood. He said he visited Michelle's grave once or even twice a year as it’s that visit to Robben Island that touches him. His last words to me before I left which encourage me every day were, "Young man, as a young leader always have respect for yourself, then respect for your parents and most importantly respect for your nation, as with respect we build a value driven country whereby we realise a non-racial, non-sexism South Africa.”

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