SA loses another giant of its democracy

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pretoria – South Africa has lost yet another giant of its democracy and freedom, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Following the passing of Ahmed Kathrada on Tuesday, the Deputy President visited Kathrada’s wife, Barbara Hogan‚ at their home in Johannesburg to pass his condolences to the family.

The 87-year-old passed away at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre on Tuesday morning. Kathrada's health deteriorated on Monday after he was admitted to hospital for surgery related to blood clotting in the brain earlier this month. His condition worsened in the past 24 hours due to pneumonia, which developed after the operation.

“We all feel so hugely deprived of this man who sacrificed and gave so much. He was in prison for 26 years, he was only free for 27 years. And for this we see a person’s life which was just dedicated to making sure that our people are free, and making sure that we have this democracy,” the Deputy President said outside of the home of the late struggle veteran.

“He is one of those who, out of sheer total commitment, selfless commitment, gave his life to the freedom of our people.

“A man of great integrity, a humble person, a person who was honest to his core, who wanted our freedom to be based on great values, values of great integrity, honesty and a person who lived his life by the words that he always articulated, and he always put our people first.

“Today we are in deep sadness, but we also celebrate his life, and we will always remember Uncle Kathy. He is leaving a great legacy, a legacy that we will try to emulate and emulate his commitment. I remember his fondness for young people.

“Young people of our country must remember Uncle Kathy and try to walk in his footsteps,” the Deputy President said.

He said his wife, Barbra Hogan, was filled with deep sadness as she lost the man she loved very much, but at the same time she is being comforted by many people coming to pay their respects and tributes to Uncle Kathy. “This is a terrible loss to her as well,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Deputy President described the late Kathrada as a beloved comrade, father and friend.

The Deputy President said Uncle Kathy was a warm, courageous, compassionate and resolute person, who will be missed by the many people whose lives he touched and enriched.

He will be remembered as an unassuming freedom fighter, whose wisdom, tolerance, humility, steadfastness and humour earned him the love and respect of our people.

“As we mourn the passing of Ahmed Kathrada, we celebrate a life that was lived in the service of humanity.

“As we prepare to lay his mortal remains to rest, we are reminded of our solemn duty to live by his example and to complete his work,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa.

Tributes continue to pour in

Government has further joined the millions of South Africans in extending its deepest condolences to the struggle stalwart’s friends and family.

Government said that the passing on of the revolutionary was a great loss for South Africa.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, members of the Kathrada Foundation, and his friends. Although we are saddened today, we must celebrate the role he played and the sacrifices he made for our country.

“In his last days, he continued to work towards promoting the values and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of South Africa. To God we belong and to him shall we return,” said Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Acting Director-General, Donald Liphoko.

North West Premier Ramoeletsi Mahumapelo said they were deeply saddened by this loss of a man who dedicated all of his life to fighting injustice with the tenacity matched by very few.

“Ahmed Kathrada stood up to the apartheid government when it was at its cruellest and in so doing showed what a profound leader he was.

“In spending time in jail with Nelson Mandela and his other comrades, he could not be swayed when the apartheid government attempted to isolate him from his comrades by suggesting he was better than them because of his race. His wisdom will be missed.

“Our condolences go to his family, friends and the African National Congress. We pray that in their loss, and in these trying times, they will find solace in the knowledge that uncle Kathy ran his race well and that his legacy will remain with us for a long time to come. May his soul rest in peace,” said the Premier.

Life and times of a giant

After his release from prison, after the achievement of democracy and the adoption of a new democratic Constitution, even as others contemplated retirement, Kathrada was determined to continue to serve the people.

The establishment of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was born out of his conviction that he could not rest for as long as the people of this country were not free from want, hunger and ignorance.

After a lifetime of struggle, the work of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will cement his legacy as a resolute champion of non-racialism, reconciliation and nation building.

His dedication, through the Foundation, to the development of a new generation of young leaders will ensure that his impact on the development of a new, better society will endure for years to come.

Kathrada was one of the accused in the famous Rivonia Trial and played an instrumental role in the fight against apartheid.

He was the recipient of a number of awards, amongst which he received the ‘Isithwalandwe’ in 1992, the highest award bestowed by the ANC and in the late 90s the late President Nelson Mandela handed Kathrada the Presidential Award of the Order for Meritorious Service Class 1 in recognition of his selfless service to the country. –