Guest Column

When the family bans you from the funeral

2017-03-29 14:09

'His life teaches us that South Africa has huge potential'- Gordhan on Kathrada

2017-03-29 13:59

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan reflects on the life of Ahmed Kathrada at the struggle icon's funeral ceremony. Watch.WATCH

Susan Erasmus

I don’t blame the Kathrada family at all. I also would prefer not to have Jacob Zuma anywhere near me of my family and friends once I have died. Or while I am still alive, now that I think of it.

But it is quite a statement when the family of a struggle stalwart, such as Ahmed Kathrada, requests that the head of state not attend what will be, in essence, a state funeral.

Ahmed Kathrada has been a beacon for justice and democracy, and never wavered from his principles. One never associates his name with underhand dealings, with political spats – in fact, he always appeared to be a dignified man of principle, and one dedicated to the ideals of freedom and justice.

One cannot help but wonder whether the poor man, when looking at what the ANC has become under Jacob Zuma’s leadership (and I use the term loosely), had often wondered whether all those years on Robben Island had been worth it. All that suffering, separation from family and friends, in order to enable the current kleptocracy. Just doesn’t seem worth it, somehow.

I fully understand the decision of the Kathrada family. The presence of the controversial president would have detracted from the somber and dignified event, possibly turning it into a political circus. The day belongs to the family, and the decision is theirs. Ahmed Kathrada belonged to the nation, but to them he was a husband, a father, an uncle, a grandfather.

The request to Zuma to stay away from the proceedings has challenged a belief I have long held: that a funeral is in essence a public event, and that everyone who had contact with that person, whether good or bad, and wishes to pay their respects, should be welcome. Possibly in the back row, and certainly not up there with the chief mourners, and definitely not as one of the speakers. But present, if they so wish.

I think I have changed my mind. If someone’s presence is going to detract from the dignity of the event, they should be barred. Funerals, and wills for that matter, have a way of exposing the fault lines in families. In this case, this funeral is exposing the fault line in the country. And it has a name: Jacob Zuma.

The fact that the deputy president is leading the government delegation going to the funeral says it all.

But one wonders whether our president has the capacity to feel a moment’s shame at being barred from this event. Or is he too busy counting his money?

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  ahmed kathrada  |  funeral


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