Two left feet did not hinder Uncle Kathy

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pretoria - Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, who was laid to rest today in Johannesburg, has been described not only as a kind man but a man who, despite his love for dancing, had two left feet.

“I met him for the first time at a fundraising party. He couldn’t dance, he had two left feet but he loved dancing,” Sophie Williams De Bruyn said of the struggle stalwart.

De Bruyn, who herself played a crucial role leading to a democratic South Africa, referred to Kathrada, who was affectionately known as Uncle Kathy, as a kind man.

Speaking at the funeral service at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg on Wednesday, De Bruyn recalled how she met Uncle Kathy at a fundraising party in the early 50s.

“We remained friends from that time up until now,” she said of Kathrada, who passed on at Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg on Tuesday at the age of 87.

De Bruyn commended Kathrada’s qualities, including that of being committed, a quality she said was evident in him from their early days of knowing each other.

“We have shared many precious times together workwise. He had special qualities, including that of organising. He assisted us when we were trying to build a Coloured congress, which was not very strong in Johannesburg,” she said.

Kathrada also helped in the historic women’s march to the Union Buildings in 1956. The march was against the discriminatory pass laws, which had restricted the movement of black people in the country.

De Bruyn told those gathered at the funeral service that Kathrada had the ability to move around and engage with the giants such as Chief Albert Luthuli and JB Marks.

“He was far younger but they accepted him and in those days I remember him to be outspoken, but he would do so in a respectable way. He spoke truth to power, he wouldn’t hesitate to come forward and speak truth to power,” she said.

Also speaking at the funeral -- which was attended by high profile people including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, former Robben Island prisoner Andrew Mlangeni, who was seated next to prominent human rights lawyer George Bizos, Ministers as well as former President Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel -- was Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali.

Ntshalintshali, who is the Secretary General of Cosatu, said Kathrada belonged to all South Africans.

“His contribution was for all South Africans, black and white,” he said of Kathrada, who was one of the accused in the Rivonia Trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment along other struggle stalwarts, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Denis Goldberg.”

Ntshalintshali said the 87-year-old had remained a humble man.

South African Communist Party (SACP) Secretary General Blade Nzimande said Kathrada had been a revolutionary stalwart and a principled champion who was ahead of his time.

The African National Congress’s Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said Kathrada was a hero.

“We want to acknowledge him for his dedication, sacrifice and commitment. He had wisdom and humility, which is rare,” said Mantashe.

Former President Thabo Mbeki, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and hundreds of South Africans came to pay their respects at the funeral of the late stalwart.

President Jacob Zuma has directed that flags be flown at half-mast until the evening of the memorial service. -


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