Political mood at Kathrada memorial

2017-04-01 14:33
Ahmed Kathrada memorial at City Hall in Johannesburg  (Lerato Sejake, News24)

Ahmed Kathrada memorial at City Hall in Johannesburg (Lerato Sejake, News24)

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 Johannesburg – There was an overtly political atmosphere as hundreds began gathering at a memorial for struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada, on Saturday at the Johannesburg City Hall.

Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy were among those to arrive at the venue, whose wood paneled stage was adorned with white pillar candles, posters and banners honouring the activist.

The memorial comes at a politically heated time, following a cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma during which he fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

On Saturday, some of those gathered were keen to make a political statement. T-shirts adorned with cartoons and slogans of support for Gordhan were evident.

A small group of ANC and SACP supporters – dressed in their organisations’ branded T-shirts - also made their way in, singing struggle songs and praising Kathrada.

The memorial, was originally to be held jointly by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the SA Communist Party, however following the cancellation of a state memorial – the Gauteng ANC also joined in on the commemoration ceremony.

On Friday, the foundation and party indicated their shock that the memorial by the state for Kathrada – due to take place on Saturday morning in Soweto - had been indefinitely postponed.

On Saturday, government communications said it had to cancel the official memorial service as it could not agree with the family.

Acting director general at government communications, Donald Liphoko, said that a funeral planning committee had made an assessment about the memorial.

"Our view was that logistically it wasn’t going to be possible to implement the funeral the way we had wanted," he said.

Previously, in a scathing address, Barbara Hogan, the widow of Kathrada, said that the abrupt decision was a sign that the "inept president who has clearly gone rogue" chose to pursue his personal interest.

"The president is willing to push ahead with his agenda of following his own self-interest at the expense of the interests of the country. Our country is not for sale. Could they not have held off with their deeds?" asked an angry Hogan.

Just over a year ago, Kathrada wrote a letter to Zuma asking him to step down. 

Kathrada died this week on Tuesday morning, and his funeral service was held at West Park cemetery in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Zuma was asked by Kathrada’s family not to attend the funeral.

Read more on:    sacp  |  anc  |  ahmed kathrada  |  johannesburg

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