A man of courage and integrity

2011-11-14 00:00

AS I write this tribute to Kader Hassim, he has been buried. We were in different political camps — he in the Unity Movement, while I was in the ANC, although historically, like Chris Hani, our political life began in the Unity Movement. Kader never forgave me for changing course.

I remember three things about him, although there were more as we were both students in the non-European section of the University of Natal which was based at Sastri College in a hut with some administration buildings and a small library.

My husband was detained in May 1966 and soon thereafter his trial was set in the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg in College Road. My daughter was born on May 29, 1966, and I was under house arrest at the time. I had to ask the magistrate (another name for Special Branch — SB) for permission to attend the trial to give him his meals. My brother, Paul David, had helped considerably but could not attend in Pietermaritzburg. Permission was granted as follows: “Report at 7 am to Smith Street police station. Report arrival at PMB police. Leave court at 4 pm and report to PMB police station. Report arrival in Durban.” My family and friend, Rosa Gabriel, took care of my children.

During the trial, which ran from June to December 1966, when I was about to leave court one day, I was shocked to find that all four wheels of my car were flat. People who sat around pointed to the SBs.

I found two bricks to place at the back wheels and was trying to remove the nuts when I was brushed aside by Kader. He undid the four wheels and took them in his car. He returned soon thereafter while I had to suffer the giggles of the SBs. I could not thank Kader as he was also under house arrest after doing a sentence of eight years on Robben Island. We two house-arrested people could not communicate.

It was an unforgettable act of generosity. He never sent me a bill for his services.

Which brings me to another act of kindness. Kader’s firm during his sojourn in prison was taken over by a husband-and-wife team, Morgan and Surie Naidoo. I don’t have to tell you about lawyers’ costs. Legal remedies are for the wealthy in our society. But Kader’s firm only charged whatever monies they dispensed. We had a bill from them for less than R10. Ask any good lawyer and he or she will tell you this was a legal miracle. He brought to the practice of law a very rare integrity.

The third act was a naughty one, although we did not think so at the time.

The government had announced that the banned books in libraries would be removed. Our small library at Sastri College had a few of these banned books. The librarian was a good friend of mine. Being a part-time student she allowed me to take home books on reserve. I would faithfully return these to her as early as I could the next day. Unbeknown to us, Kader got wind of our relationship. He confronted me, saying you have this cosy relationship, which I am sure we can put to use.

We will pick up the banned books and place them in your hands and you will walk out thanking her profusely. She will not guess what you are doing. That’s what we did. I am not sure what happened to those books, but they may still be on Kader’s bookshelves.

I had the highest regard for his courageous integrity.

Hamba kahle dear Kader.

• Phyllis Naidoo is an ANC stalwart.

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