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Paying tribute to the late Mr Ahmed Kathrada, Members of the National Assembly concurred that his passing marks one of the painful moments in the collective consciousness of our country. Our country has not only lost a gentle soul, a selfless being, but a beacon of wisdom whose moral campus helped to steer our country to a peaceful transition against all odds, they said.

Uncle Kathy, as he was affectionately known, will always be remembered as an embodiment of the ideals and values that today constitute the tenets of our freedom and democracy that all of us enjoy today, the Members of National Assembly heard.

“The death of Comrade Ahmed Kathrada marks the saddest moment in our country’s political history. He left an indelible footprint that cannot be erased and he will remain a source of wisdom,” said the Chief Whip of the Majority Party, Mr Jackson Mthembu.

“We will recall that he was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1994 and he became the Parliamentary Counsellor to our first democratic President, Mr Nelson Mandela. His political consciousness will never be equalled. Comrade Kathrada became politically active at the age of 17. He was later imprisoned, banned and faced countless house arrests. In 1956 he was among the treason trialists who were later sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island in 1964. During his imprisonment he obtained a Bachelor of Arts, BA Honours in African Politics and History, among other achievements. This indicates his resilience,” he said.

“As part of the effort to preserve the legacy of those who contributed to our democracy, who are the building blocks of our dispensation, we must hold a mirror against ourselves and determine whether we have managed to emulate their efforts or not,” said Mr Charles Nqakula.

We must commend Comrade Kathrada for fighting side by side with the masses to free not only the oppressed but also the oppressors, said Mr Nqakula. “Our struggle was long and hard. It is pleasing to remember that he was among those cadres such as OR, Sisulu, Govan, Mandela and others who fought for our liberation. He, himself, was a giant.”

Mr Kathrada was the only Indian among the Rivonia trialists, and Mr Mandela described him as someone who “had a sharp tongue and engaging personality’. A doer, not a theoriser. He held views that were in variance with others. He defended them when pushed to do so. But always willing to support the majority view or decision. Mr Kathrada had misgivings about the state of the ANC which he raised openly without fear,” said Mr Nqakula.

“We have had our miscalculations that led to the growth of opposition parties. I want to say as we remember Mr Kathrada, let’s remember one thing we need to do to truly provide service delivery to the people to ensure they enjoy a better life. We must utilise Mr Kathrada’s political consciousness and resolve to unite the people of this country and address our common enemies such as unemployment, poverty and inequality,” he said.

I was in Kempton Park during the negotiation process when we made a twist with destiny, a twist that led to our freedom and which Mr Kathrada contributed to, said Mr Ghaleb Cachalia.

Most recently, he knew in his heart and lamented the revolution that led to the conspicuous consumption and corruption by those in power, especially our President. He had enough and asked the President to step down. He expressed this to the President, he maintained not to speak publicly, but broke that tradition. I said he did not speak against Nkandla because he believed the ANC would deal with the politics of patronage. He later asked serious questions when the President violated the rule of law and he asked himself: ‘How must I relate to my President?’ He appealed to the President to submit to the will of the people and resign. Your voice is not in wilderness,” said Mr Cachalia.

We know his voice will never be silenced, said Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. And we shared love for South Africa on the pursuit of its liberation. “His legacy will influence those willing to learn. There are few leaders like him, may Uncle Kathy’s soul rest in peace.”

Mr Kathrada marks a difference between a politician and a statement, said Mr Ahmed Shaik Emam. “If we truly want to pay tribute to him we must go back to the principles and values enshrined in the Freedom Charter. What we see in this country today is not what our forefathers fought for,” he said. 

“Through the passing of Comrade Kathrada, we are coming closer to the end of an era of integrity, honesty, decency and truthfulness. Comrade Kathrada’s statement towards the President was: ‘If you have eyes to see and ears to hear you will step down’. In fact, it was the National Assembly’s failure to hold the President to account that prompted Kathrada to write to him (President Jacob Zuma) and urge him to step down,” said Mr Willie Madisha.

“What could be the sum total of Mr Kathrada’s contribution to our liberation and democracy? Mr Kathrada was a midwife to our Constitution and other laws that contributed to addressing our educational and social problems. We have a lot to learn from him. We must ask ourselves, ‘have we done enough to deserve to be the heirs of the mantle of this House’. We can multiple his greatness or muddy it,” said Ms Naledi Pandor.

By Abel Mputing

13 June 2017