Remembering Uncle Kathy

Tuesday, March 28, 2017
More Matshediso

Pretoria – Sadness filled the hearts and souls of mourners who gathered at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday to share memories of the late Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Tuesday called a media briefing following the death of the struggle stalwart who died in the morning at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg after a short period of illness. He was 87-years-old.

The foundation announced that he will be laid to rest on Wednesday at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sello Hatang said today is not about being sad but to celebrate a life well-lived.

“Mr K lived his life to the fullest. He fought to the very end,” said Hatang, welcoming mourners to the venue.

He said to honour the legacy of Kathrada, “we will care for the vulnerable in our society, especially women and children… the elderly must be looked after”.

He extended condolences to Kathrada’s wife, Barbara Hogan. “Her loss is not only hers, we join in that loss, because South Africa has lost one of the greatest. With his death, we will make sure that we continue fighting the good fight to help build the country of their dreams, and the country of those who are still yet to be born.”

The Chief Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton, said the death of Kathrada is like a celebration of 75-years of activism, as the late struggle stalwart started being an activist at the age of 12.

“Up until the end, I will describe him as still being an activist… in his last few years in the foundation, Ahmed Kathrada has had a public life of a total of 200 public engagements per year, sometimes even more than that,” said Balton.

He said when he checked Kathrada’s diary, he learned that this has always been his life as an activist.

Balton said it was Kathrada’s expressed wish to have a Muslim funeral, and it will be just that come tomorrow.

Irene Menell, who serves on the Nelson Mandela Foundation Board, referred to Kathrada as a very remarkable man and an extraordinary soul.

“The greatest tribute that we can give to Kathy is to continue to value his extraordinary commitment to the very best human values, and not just possibly remember and value and praise… but to become activists and continue to be activists in the strongest possible way to retain to the best of our capacity those values in life,” said Menell.

Amongst those who attended the briefing to pay tributes were struggle stalwarts including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn, and many other struggle veterans.

The room started to get very emotional when Madikizela-Mandela was invited to the podium but could not come forward, possibly due to sadness and a sense of loss.

Her daughter, Zenani Mandela, took to the podium to pay her tribute, but she also failed to contain her sadness and was overwhelmed by tears. Many people felt emotional as she read her speech.

“There are those people who come into your life and never leave, because they are truly special,” she said with a trembling voice, tears rolling from her eyes.

“He was my other father. I have won the fondest memories of him… ever gentle, always self-effacing, but undoubtedly powerful. For many decades, he was one of my father’s closest friends,” she said.

She urged all to keep the legacy of both Kathrada and Nelson Mandela and never forget the sacrifices they made for the country.

“Uncle Kathy was my dad’s best friend and his confidant. I arranged for him to spend time with my dad, during those final days. I watched them as they shared the jokes, reminiscing about the past and it is one of my life’s abiding memories,” said Madiba’s daughter.

Anti-apartheid struggle stalwart, Sophie Williams-de Bruyn, remembers Kathrada as a friend who was always respected and listened to, even though he was the youngest among many veterans during the days of the struggle.

She also remembered him for his kindness. “He had many connections, everybody loved him. He was not afraid to speak to power, even during the days of his youth.”

The Kathrada Foundation said members of the public and the media are welcome to attend the funeral ceremony tomorrow.

The programme will include a political tribute session starting at 10am organised by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

Former President of South Africa and Board member of the Kathrada Foundation, Kgalema Motlanthe, will speak at the event.

De Bruyn, a former Robben Island prisoner, and a family member will also address the mourners.

This will be followed by the ritual Muslim funeral prayer rites, which will commence at 11.30am at the cemetery. This will be followed by the final burial rites.

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