On behalf of the Democratic Alliance (DA), I wish to express my deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of struggle hero, freedom fighter, and one of the fathers of our nation, Ahmed Kathrada, who passed away peacefully this morning aged 87.
Uncle Kathy, as he was affectionately known, embodied a profound sense of compassion, and an unwavering commitment to true justice. As leader at the forefront of the struggle for liberation, Kathrada relentlessly fought for the freedoms we all cherish today.
I fondly recall the many times I engaged with Uncle Kathy – most notably the conversation we had when he was bestowed with the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg. He told me of the years on Robben Island where he – along with the likes of Mandela, Sisulu and Tambo – never heard or saw the presence of children. He shared with me that for him freedom meant hearing the voices of children, indicating his sincere compassion, as well as his commitment to the future of our beautiful country.
Kathrada’s political work began in 1941, at the early age of 12 when he joined the Young Communist League of South Africa. His involvement included organising the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust laws of 1952, which targeted the Pass Laws, Stock Limitation Regulations, the Group Areas Act, the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the Suppression of Communism Act and the Bantu Authorities Act – which all unfairly limited the rights of Africans.
In July 1963, Kathrada – along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Billy Nair, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Denis Goldberg – was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for acts of treason in the now infamous Rivonia Trail. This was Kathrada’s 18th arrest on political grounds, an indication of his unwavering commitment to challenging and defeating an unjust system.
Uncle Kathy spent 26 years in prison – 18 of which was on Robben Island – for his resistance to Apartheid. He was released from prison on 15 October 1989, at the age of 60.
In 1994, Kathrada was elected as a member of parliament for the ANC, and served as Parliamentary Counsellor to President Nelson Mandela until 1999.
In the words of Uncle Kathy, “Hatred, revenge, bitterness – these are negative emotions. The person harbouring those emotions suffers more.” My hope and dream is for a South Africa in which we give life and meaning to the legacy of our fallen hero, Ahmed Kathrada, by building a nation that truly bridges the divides which have for so long separated us from living united in our diversity.
Hamba kahle Uncle Kathy. May your unwavering commitment to justice and reconciliation live on in all of us.
Mmusi Maimane MP
Leader of the Democratic Alliance