Uncle Kathy’s emotional send-off
Johannesburg – Stern words, standing ovations, and raw emotions dominated the final send-off for ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada on Wednesday.
Friends, family, dignitaries, activists and struggle veterans said their last goodbyes to Kathrada at the Westpark cemetery, Johannesburg. Throngs of mourners gathered at the Houghton mosque early on Wednesday morning before heading to the cemetery for the last rites.
The 87-year-old stalwart’s coffin arrived draped in an ANC flag in a marquee almost filled to capacity.
Mourners sang revolutionary songs and veterans and former leaders took to the podium to bid Kathrada farewell. His family had turned down the offer of a state funeral, opting instead for a simple ceremony in accordance with Muslim rites.
SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande said it was unfortunate that Kathrada left at a time when his wisdom was needed the most in the ANC.
“Let us remember Comrade Kathy for qualities that we need in abundance today – being humble, simple, willing to sacrifice, and love for your people and the oppressed people of the world,” he said.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said Kathrada was a giant who remained humble to his last day.
“The ANC was not formed by members of the ANC. It was South Africans who tried to fight for the liberation of all South Africans.
“Leaders of our movement must at all times be truthful to themselves and organisations. They must be brave like Kathy, but honest to themselves.”
President Jacob Zuma was absent, in accordance with the family’s wish that he not attend.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe acknowledged Kathrada for his dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.
(Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Ahmed Kathrada’s life partner and former cabinet minister Barbara Hogan at the funeral service. (GCIS))
But it was former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who took centre stage with his eulogy.
Motlanthe said Kathrada never officially received a response from Zuma after he publicly asked him to step down, in an open letter last year.
“Three hundred and fifty four days ago today Comrade Kathrada wrote this letter to which a reply has not been forthcoming. As you are aware, this letter went without any formal reply,” Motlanthe said.
He described Kathrada’s legacy as one of humility, non-racialism, non-sexism, and justice.
“It would be disingenuous to pay tribute to the life of Comrade Ahmed Kathrada and to pretend that he was not deeply disturbed by the current failure of post-apartheid politics,” he said.