At a heartfelt and symbolic interfaith prayer meeting at Liliesleaf in Rivonia – where freedom fighters were arrested in 1963 – prayers were heard for the speedy recovery of Ahmed Kathrada.
Kathrada underwent brain surgery earlier this month and his difficult recovery has led to concern by many of his family and others.
Among those in attendance was Nelson Mandela’s old lawyer, Advocate George Bizos‚ “Little Rivonia” triallist Laloo Isu Chiba‚ Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom‚ who is also chairman of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation board, and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
Anti-apartheid activist Sophie de Bruyn and Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi were also among the about 100 people who gathered to wish “Uncle Kathy” well.
“We are not here to pay tribute – that’s when all of us move onto other pastures,” Hanekom said.
“We are here to say, ‘Kathy, get better man‚ and get better fast’.
“We have three remaining Rivonia triallists with us today‚ of which Uncle Kathy is one.
“It is no coincidence that Uncle Kathy was such a dear and close friend to Nelson Mandela‚ because they are the same‚ think the same‚ project the same‚ stand for the same values‚” he said.
“When we get together like this on Human Rights Day‚ it’s about honouring Uncle Kathy and the many others who fought to bring us the human rights we enjoy today.”
Mashaba recalled when he met Kathrada at his home shortly after his release from prison.
“I am here on behalf of the residents of Johannesburg to say to Kathy‚ please get well‚ this country still needs you,” Mashaba said.
“We know your huge contribution throughout your life is going to impact not just on this generation‚ it’s the kind of contribution that’s going to be there forever.”
Bizos said he was sad to have to speak in Kathrada’s absence.
“We have met many times and spoke on the same platform many times, and he inevitably said, ‘I don’t know what George Bizos is doing here‚ he sent us to jail!’
“Then he would pause and say‚ ‘George, I’ll tell them the other part which would please you‚ you saved our lives‚ thank you’,” Bizos said.
“I hope to see him at another function‚ where he’ll say the same thing.”
Kathrada Foundation director Neeshan Balton hit out at fake news that Kathrada had died, calling it sick and malicious.
“In the last 48 hours, there has been a recovery,” he said.
Kathrada was arrested at Liliesleaf in July 1963, along with Mandela and other liberation leaders.