Tributes pour in for ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada

Tributes are pouring in for ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada‚ who died in the early hours of Tuesday.

Kathrada passed away at about 4am on Tuesday in a Johannesburg hospital after suffering complications from a medical procedure to deal with clotting on the brain. His condition had severely deteriorated in the hours leading up to his death.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation mourned the death of the ANC stalwart‚ while politicians past and present took to Twitter to salute Kathrada‚ including sports minister Fikile Mbalula and Jay Naidoo.

“Another giant has left this earth‚” said Bantu Holomisa‚ leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

“I first met Kathy in 1989‚ in Mthatha‚ just after his and his comrades’ release from Robben Island‚” Holomisa said. “I was impressed with his quiet fortitude and dignity. He was part of a crop of leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) that we will forever idealise because of their style of leadership and the sacrifices they made in their efforts to free the oppressed masses of South Africa.”

Save South Africa said: “This is a sad moment for our nation‚ and yet one which should inspire us all to continue to fight for the kind of society Cde Kathy fought for. That is the greatest tribute we can pay to his contribution to our freedom.”

The City of Johannesburg said: “He was awarded Freeman of the City of Johannesburg in August 2012 for his contribution to South Africa’s struggle for freedom and democracy‚ and for his exceptional involvement in the betterment of the City of Johannesburg.”

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) said: “Uncle Kathy inspired confidence in all South Afrcans from young to old during both apartheid and democratic order.

“He worked very closely to many Robben Islanders and PAC leaders such as Zephania Mothopeng‚ Robert Sobukwe and many others in a bid to dismantle apartheid regime. He was a fearless man who identified himself with marginalised African dispossessed. He remains inspiration to us.”

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said: “When the gates of apartheid’s political prisons swung open in 1989/1990 the quality of the human beings who emerged was an extraordinary blessing for all South Africans.

“These were people of the highest integrity and moral fibre who‚ through their humility and humanity‚ inspired our collective self-worth – and the world’s confidence in us.

“Ahmed Kathrada was one of those leaders. A man of remarkable gentleness‚ modesty – and steadfastness – he once wrote to the President to argue that he did not deem himself important enough to be awarded a high honour.

“The struggle denied Ahmed Kathrada the opportunity to have children of his own; he was first imprisoned at the age of 17. But many South Africans looked up to him as a favourite grandparent.

“May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory. May he rejoice in many heavenly cups of hot chocolate with his old friends and comrades‚ Mandela‚ Sisulu‚ Mbeki‚ Motsoaledi and Mahlaba among them.”

The Congress of the People (COPE) said: “We pay tribute to his gallant struggle and sacrifices over many decades to build a better tomorrow for all. He belongs in the special league of heroes and heroines who uncompromisingly believed in the sanctity of the truth and the correctness of their vision of a South Africa that belongs to all.

“More recently he has been unflinching in fighting against the morally repugnant scourge of corruption and bad governance. He knew very well that this scourge is a betrayal of the ideals of a better country.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation had fond memories of the man known as “Mr K”.

“Mr K‚ as he was affectionately known at the Foundation‚ played a pivotal role both in the establishment of the organisation in 1999 as Mr Mandela’s post-presidential office and in its later growth as an NGO promoting social justice through dialogue and memory work. He was our wise counsellor‚ our stern critic‚ our best friend‚” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.

“But we will remember him‚ fundamentally‚ as the embodiment of promise for a liberatory future. He worked for that future to the end. He walked the walk. He never wavered.

“We miss him already‚ and always will. We thank his beloved Barbara and everyone else who gave him the strength he needed always to go the extra mile.”

Denis Goldberg‚ who was one of the Rivonia treason trialists alongside Kathrada‚ “Uncle Kathy” the most.

Speaking to Radio 702 on Tuesday morning‚ just hours after Kathrada’s passing‚ a clearly emotional Goldberg said:

“We were arrested together‚ went through the Rivonia [treason] trial together and we went through facing the gallows together‚ absolutely certain we were going to be hanged.

Goldberg‚ who was sentenced to prison in Pretoria while Kathrada went to Robben Island because of the apartheid government’s racist policies‚ recalled how Kathrada last year called on President Jacob Zuma to resign.

“I support him on that. There’s a violation of our Constitution going on constantly‚ and that Constitution is what stands between us and chaos. We need to be out in the streets protesting the violation of the very principles we fought for – the theft of state assets‚ the theft of the values we stood for.

“We fought apartheid because the resources and valuable minerals and lives of our people were stolen by apartheid‚ and now we’re thieving the very valuable things that our Constitution is supposed to defend – in the name of crookery and thuggery.”

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation paid tribute to Kathrada for his contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

“Comrade Kathy‚ as he was fondly known‚ dedicated all his adult life to the struggle against apartheid and the construction of a non-racial‚ non-sexist and democratic South Africa. For this principled stand‚ he‚ together with his fellow comrades‚ spent more than a quarter of a century on Robben Island‚” the foundation said in a statement.

“It is often said of the passing of the heroic that it is the ‘end of an era.’ While this certainly applies to South Africa in many respects‚ the TMF believes that to the extent that the ideals for which Comrade Kathy fought are yet to be realised‚ we must do everything to ensure that the values which inspired him to battle germinate a million times over and produce more of his calibre who will‚ instead of submitting‚ vigorously prosecute the struggle for a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Comrade Kathy’s partner Comrade Barbara Hogan‚ his wider family of comrades and friends.”

Gautent Premier David Makhura said: “Uncle Kathy had lived a life of dedication to fellow human beings. He served the ANC and the country with humility and always led with dignity. His values will always inform the work we do for the people.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Kathrada fought relentlessly for the freedoms South Africans share today.

Maimane said: “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.”

He recalled a conversation with Kathrada at Mandela’s funeral.

“He told me of the years on Robben Island where he‚ along with the likes of Mandela‚ [Walter] Sisulu and [Oliver] 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‚” said Maimane.

Movie mogul Anant Singh said South Africa had lost a father and an inspirational leader.

Singh‚ who was close to Kathrada for almost 28 years‚ saluted him for his humanity and “quiet dignity”.

“I remember as though it was yesterday the first time I met him‚ almost 28 years ago‚ soon after his release from prison. He has been a part of my life ever since and became part of our family‚” he said.

Singh‚ who captured Kathrada’s life in the documentary‚ Ahmed Kathrada: A Man for All Seasons‚ described him as a selfless leader who was committed to helping less fortunate South Africans.

“We join the millions of South Africans in celebrating Kathy’s amazing life‚” said Singh.

Human rights group Section 27 said: “And while Ahmed Kathrada’s long journey has come to an end. As a nation ours has just begun‚ we owe to it Ahmed Kathrada to live in the just and equal world they imagined and fought for‚ we owe it to Ahmed Kathrada to protect the very principals of freedom that he worked so tirelessly to realise. The greatest honour to Kathy is to defend everything we have fought for‚ with everything we have got. That fight is now.”

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it “joins all South African in mourning the loss of Ahmed Kathrada‚ one of the founding fathers of our democracy and anti-Apartheid stalwart. The heroism and self-sacrifice that he showed in taking a stand against injustice will be his enduring legacy. Our condolences go to his family and friends.”

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