What had been planned as a prayer session for the ailing struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday morning turned into an impromptu memorial service, after the news of his passing. Many of his former colleagues and friends gathered in Houghton to memorialise his life, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Derek Hanekom, George Bizos and Sophie de Bruyn.
Kathrada was lauded as a principled fighter for justice, and someone who had a big place in his heart for young people.
De Bruyn, the last living leader of the 1956 Women's March, said that he was a person who loved the young people.
"He spoke many times to the young people. That they must inculcate his life. Because the young people are facing a very difficult time. Our country is facing a very difficult time. But it is the young people who are the future generation, that will have to put up with what is happening today in our country. And it is them who are going to have to fight another struggle," she said.
"But I think we and Kathy will be happy in the knowledge that what that generation worked for, strived for, died for, has not been in vain. Because already we can see the results of that which they strove for, in the education that the young people have taken upon themselves and in the choices that they are making. And we are very proud and happy. And sometimes I get a lump in my throat from happiness, just to experience when I'm around them how gifted and talented they are, and that is what we want from them. And we can be happy to know that the struggle that they are going to have to fight, they are going to be equipped, more educated, because they are going to fight it digitally. The kind of resources that we didn't have. And because they are going to be much smarter," De Bruyn said.
George Bizos, the human rights lawyer who was part of the defence team for the Rivonia trialists said that Kathrada was the smartest accused and smartest prisoner that the apartheid regime had to deal with.
"He would not disassociate himself with the other accused at the Rivonia trial. He is the one who actually told the prosecutor in no uncertain terms, 'don't expect me to say anything that will help you get a conviction against my comrades.'"
Neeshan Balton, the chief executive of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said that thousands of pages of police transcripts that had been declassified showed that that Kathrada had the kind of militancy that would make Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema seem tame. He said, "when we release these documents, you will see what I mean. But militant to the core. But that militancy was disciplined. But when it came to the point of understanding that negotiation was the route, he was persuaded and then that's what he devoted his life to."
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