The Rivonia trialists still standing

2017-04-02 07:44
Andrew Mlangeni

Andrew Mlangeni

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I knew Ahmed Kathrada as a man who had a heart that never grew tired of noble pursuits. He was one of the youngest and brightest stars in our struggle; one that ceaselessly shone and never lost focus through it all.

He dedicated seven decades of a lifetime to us until he breathed his last on Tuesday.

Kathrada derived wisdom at the knee of his mentor and Transvaal Indian Congress leader Dr Yusuf Dadoo, and was thus placed within reach of ANC leaders, including Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, who was my former teacher.

By force of circumstance and the shared vision that fired up our generation with a dream of a better South Africa, our paths were bound to cross, albeit not without the consequence that took 26 years from our lifetimes.

Then came the Sharpeville Massacre and the state of emergency, which drew the final curtain on nonviolence as an option. The futility of peaceful activism came to the fore. I was one of the first six sent to China for military training in 1961.

Upon my return, the armed struggle was torpedoed by the arrest of the entire leadership of Umkhonto we Sizwe at Liliesleaf Farm.

Shortly thereafter came the next wave of arrests – Arthur Goldreich, James Kantor, Denis Goldberg, Harold Wolpe and Elias Motsoaledi. And I was also arrested.

In prison, Kathrada never stopped reminding us of the awkward excruciating truth that our incarceration placed us in relative safety compared with those outside, who were facing daily harassment, torture, apartheid killing machines and death squads.

He was unshakeable, an exemplary diligent leader in a journey to deepen nonracialism.

His fervent belief in the youth and the deepening of nonracialism is the source behind the establishment of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which he led with unpretentious honesty, which explains what is these days described as speaking truth to power.

The most fitting tribute to bestow upon Kathrada is to continue to abide by the values of common humanity that his foundation champions.

His ethical leadership is a testimony of a life well lived. I give my heartfelt condolences to his family. His honesty was a shining example of lived experience.

The family should take comfort in the thought that this pain is not only shared with the movement that he so selflessly served, but also with all progressive forces worldwide.

You will always be on my mind, big brother and comrade.

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