Three of the remaining Rivonia Trialists will this month receive two accolades: the Freedom of Sedibeng District Municipality, and the Freedom of the City of London.
The Freedom of Sedibeng will be awarded to Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg at an event hosted on January 15.
The three will be joined by their legal representatives, George Bizos and Joel Joffe, in receiving the Freedom of the City of London on January 27. The awardees are also expected to meet Prime Minister David Cameron during their UK visit.
Prior to the Sedibeng ceremony tomorrow, the trialists will engage with youth from the Vaal region, as well as lay a wreath at the Sharpeville Memorial Centre. In keeping with their lifelong commitment to non-racialism, the three will also use the opportunity to take a stand against the recent spate of racial incidents that has made headlines.
Kathrada, speaking about the accolade, said that he was honoured and humbled. “One recalls the Sedibeng region’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle in the Evaton Bus Boycotts in the 1950s, as well as the horrors of the violence that erupted in the Vaal Triangle, particularly Boipatong, closer to the advent of democracy. Importantly, the region is home to the site of the Sharpeville Massacre. We must remember though, that Sharpeville is also where the new Constitution of South Africa was signed into law by President Mandela. It is therefore symbolic of how far we have come as a country – from racial oppression by the state, to the non-racial future that the Constitution promised, and still promises.”
His views were echoed by Neeshan Balton, Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. “The 1960 Sharpeville Massacre was symbolic of the height of racial oppression. The Pass Laws that were at the heart of the protest, was a tool to entrench racial segregation. The history of this massacre holds special significance today, in light of elements of racism that have persisted, as demonstrated publically by certain individuals over the last two weeks.
Balton added that it is highly significant that the Sedibeng district had chosen the three remaining trialists for this accolade. “The Rivonia generation symbolises the best values of the liberation movement, including selflessness, courage and providing leadership by example.
“Their struggle, arrests, incarceration and subsequent freedom epitomises the transition that the country underwent. In a way, this award is a tribute to their vision of a non-racial future – a value championed from as far back as 1955, with South Africans from across racial lines working together to challenge the apartheid state,” he said.
“At the event in Sharpeville, Kathrada, Mlangeni and Goldberg will in some way be recommitting to that very ideal that echoed so strongly during their trial. Ahead of tomorrow’s ceremony, it is worth revisiting Mandela’s words from the dock: ‘I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’”