Gentle giant Kathrada remembered in emotional tribute ceremony

2017-03-28 20:15
Ahmed Kathrada (Netwerk24)

Ahmed Kathrada (Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg – The daughter of former president Nelson Mandela, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, wept as she read a moving tribute to struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada who died early on Tuesday.

Taking the podium at a commemoration ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mandela-Dlamini sobbed as she remembered her "best friend and confidant".

He mother Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was expected to speak, but she was too emotional.  

Mandela-Dlamini described Kathrada as a diligent, reliable and committed man, who the Mandela family held in high regard.

"He was my other father… Ever gentle… But undoubtedly powerful. Let us speak the truth today, uncle Kathy is the last of his generation of many men and women who fought so badly for the liberation of our country and still managed to practice what they preach and walk the talk, which is no easy task today."

With tears rolling down her cheeks, Mandela-Dlamini said: "Uncle Kathy was my best, best friend and confidant. I arranged that he could spend time with my dad during those final years."

When she went back to take a seat next to her mother, the two embraced and wept.

Read more tributes here

Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said the day should not be used to mourn Kathrada, but to celebrate his life.

"It is a life well lived. Mr K lived his life to the fullest and was a fighter till the very end."

Hatang said: "Mr K is no more… The next generation can only celebrate him if we make the struggle real, if we deliver on education…With his death, we will continue the good fight."

'He wanted to go in the most dignified manner'

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation CEO Neeshan Balton said Kathrada’s militancy in his youth would make EFF leader Julius Malema look tame.

Balton said Kathrada’s illness had caught the family by surprise.

"He had just completed an event… He spent two days in a hospital in Cape Town, but he wanted to go to his flat and he got there mid-February and was in bed for the better part of February.

"We thought he was fine until a point where dehydration set in, and finally when the doctors did a scan and found that there was severe blood clotting, and that required surgery."

Balton said, once the pneumonia set in, doctors had advised that his condition would deteriorate.

"This morning at 3:45, he passed away."

Balton said it was always Kathrada’s wish to not be placed on life support.

"He made it very clear that when the time comes, he wanted to go in the most dignified manner.

"We would be failing him and his generation if we do not stop the rot that is setting in," he continued.

Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim rites on Wednesday at West Park Cemetery.

'A person who loved people'

Activist Sophie de Bruyn said she would remember Kathrada for his kind and gentle soul.

She recalled the day when she told Kathrada that she did not have money to go home for that particular Christmas. Kathrada gave her money to buy a ticket so she could go home for the holidays.

George Bizos remembered Kathrada as one of the smartest accused in the treason trial.

"He would not disassociate himself from the others, he refused to divulge information on what his co-accused had done," he said, adding that, "Kathy was also very generous… he had a sense of humour. I was very lucky to have known him."

Political activist and businesswoman Barbara Masekela said Kathrada was "someone who was single-mindedly devoted to the struggle".

"I wish that comrade Kathy had left at a happier time, that he was smiling about South Africa, but it is not so and I think that's why we feel his passing so deeply.

"I don’t think we can say that he was happy at the outcome of the country, and we were part of a very lucky generation. We have had the opportunity to experience the most courageous, fearless, eloquent and most selfless leaders. Kathrada was among them."

Masekela said there was now a new generation of people.

"Perhaps we expect them to fight in the same way that the older generation did. They can’t and they will not, because they did not have the experiences that we had, but I hope that, from time to time, they will go back and look at our heroes."

The daughter of Yusuf Dadoo, Rashan, recalled how her parents used to force her to write letters to political prisoners, particularly Kathrada.

She said she was born in exile in London "and all I knew was that I had all of these uncles in prison on an island somewhere in South Africa".

Dadoo said, when she finally met Kathrada, he was a person who loved people.

'An example to all'

She criticised the current leaders, saying: "He [Kathrada] was not just a leader and I think that is where we must take our cue. People earn leadership and respect. And the best way to remember uncle Kathy is to stand by what he believed in, regardless of the hardest of times.

"I think it was particularly hard for him because he struggled for an ideal and still saw people, he thought were comrades and friends, making decisions that can be described as against what he stood for."

She said South Africans should not be afraid to call out those who went against Kathrada’s ideals.

Isidingo actor Jack Devnarain shared fond memories of Kathrada’s visit on the set of his favourite soapie.

Devnarain said, throughout his life, Kathrada was forced to play many roles.

"Some of the roles were about life and death, the stakes were that high. Sometimes he had to hide from the security police, grow a beard and wear dark glasses, in order to change his look so that he could not be caught."

He said, when it was demanded of Kathrada, he would play the role of the leader, fighter, teacher and prisoner.

"He was an example to all," he said.

Read more on:    ahmed kathrada

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