Kathrada’s Freedom of the City honour

By Drum Digital
27 November 2015

Apartheid struggle hero Ahmed Kathrada was awarded the Freedom of the City in Cape Town last night.

The decision was made in a council vote and is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a citizen.

Kathrada, or Kathy as he is popularly known, was a prisoner on Robben Island with late former president Nelson Mandela, and describes himself as having been an “involuntary guest of the city”.

He jokingly said during his time in prison he paid no rates or taxes and the reasons behind him receiving this prestigious award will remain a mystery to him.

In his speech, he acknowledged many men and women, black and white, whom he says sacrificed “life and limb” to bring about a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

“We sometimes forget that freedom came at huge costs and sacrifices and that many of those scars have not yet had time to heal,” he said. “We sometimes forget that 1994 was only about the start of a new journey and not the final destination itself.”

Kathrada went on to describe Cape Town as the “most beautiful city in the world”, and worked in the city a “voluntary guest” for 5 years while serving in Mandela’s office and another 7 years as chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council.

Kathrada says his self-titled foundation, together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and 60 civil society organisations, has launched the Anti-Racism Network South Africa with the objective  to promote national unity and a non-racial identity to build a decent, fair life for all in our cities.

“Cape Town has an important role to play. I was especially pleased to have been invited to the launch of the City’s anti-racism campaign. The prejudices that people who are not white experience in restaurants, schools, universities, at work and sometimes even at places of worship are all indicators that racism is very much alive, and with us in post-apartheid South Africa. The campaign of the City should give hope to all its citizens that racism in all its forms will not be tolerated,” he said.

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