“I can see that the spirit of the UDF is alive in Cape Town,” former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told a packed St George’s Cathedral during the memorial for struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada last week Thursday, April 6.
Mr Gordhan was the keynote speaker at the memorial, which followed a political tune as speaker after speaker called for an end to corruption in the state and the rights of all South Africans to be recognised.
The United Democratic Front was formed in Mitchell’s Plain in 1983 to unite anti-apartheid activists and organisations.
Mr Gordhan said this spirit was vital for South Africans to continue uncle Kathy’s tradition of activism.
Mr Gordhan, who has been in the spotlight since he was axed when president Jacob Zuma reshuffled the cabinet, called on South Africans to stand up against corruption.
“From him (Ahmed Kathrada) we draw inspiration.
“He would oppose injustice wherever it may be found. It is a tradition that we as the future generation need to continue because it is going to be a long, hard 20 or 30 years. Practicing democracy is different from preaching democracy. Practicing democracy means that in any situation one remembers the democratic values of consultation, listening to different views and tolerating different views even if you disagree with them. Democracy also means respecting our constitution, and to do so we need to practice those values on a daily basis.”
Mr Gordhan added: “Ahmed Kathrada’s mission in life was to ensure that we have freedom and democracy, economic emancipation and a new form of social cohesion. He also knew that to those goals there would have to be sustained activism on his part and today our part as South Africans.”
Mr Gordhan joked that he and fired tourism minister Derek Hanekom were still getting used to being called comrade again and not minister.
Earlier in the service, after tributes by religious leaders, struggle stalwart Eddie Daniels recalled some of his memories of spending time with Ahmed Kathrada on Robben Island.
He said that Mr Kathrada was one of the most generous and kindest men that he had ever met.
“He would be so kind and helpful to anyone.”
Mr Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. While he was in prison, he obtained university degrees in History and Criminology, African Politics and Library Science, as well as honours in History and African Politics.
Mr Daniels said that he remembered how Kathrada would, at great risk to himself, order more stationery than he needed, and pass it down to the political prisoners who couldn’t afford it. He added that Mr Kathrada stood alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu as the greatest people he had ever known.
#FeesMustFall student activist, Fasiha Hassan, said that even in death, Mr Kathrada was an activist.
“I stand before you a 23-year-old Muslim woman, the first generation born just a few months shy of the first democratic elections. I am the product of the struggles of Ahmed Kathrada. Uncle Kathy was the embodiment of what it meant to challenge injustice. He knew that it was important to challenge the status quo.”
She said although he sometimes disagreed with the current crop of student activists, he was always supportive and encouraging and even attended meetings.
“We were once called the lost generation. The spirit of Ahmed Kathrada is still with us to give us the strength and courage. He was one of the few who joined us at a time when it was unpopular to do so.”
In the build-up to the nationwide marches planned for the following day, she also called for South Africans to be more consistent in their protests.
“I hope to see you at the next #FeesMustFall and fight for free education,” she said.
Hazel O’Shea, of the SA 1st Forum, called for a coalition of civic organisations to challenge the corruption currently taking place in government.
“Since our inception we have called on South Africans to rediscover their voices and organise against corruption and poor leadership on those who are supposed to lead our country. It is about continuing the legacy of uncle Kathy. We are also pleased to add our voices opposing a nuclear deal in South Africa. The time to act is now.”
South African Communist Party deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin called on president Jacob Zuma to step down and for the Gupta family’s citizenship to be revoked.
Mr Gordhan faced a less-friendly audience when he spoke at the memorial service for Mr Kathrada at Sastri College in Durban days later on Sunday, April 9, when he was booed during his speech by ANC Youth League members.
Ahmed Kathrada, is survived by his partner Barbara Hogan, who is also an ANC struggle veteran.
They had a flat close to the city centre where they lived when in CapeTown.