Good Morning, Sanbonani, Assalaam Aleikom, Namaste, Vanekum, Goeie More
Cde Programme Director, Distinguished Guests, Comrades and Friends, Ladies and Gentleman
We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Comrade Ahmed Kathrada whose death after a short illness following surgery for the removal of blood clots around his brain, has left one and all shocked and shattered; pained and devastated.
My family and I join millions of people here and abroad in extending our heart-felt condolences to you Barbara, and to all members of the Kathrada family on the passing on of our beloved Kathy – an icon who has deservedly taken his rightful place alongside the giants of our democratic revolution.
It is difficult for me to imagine the depth and the extent of your grief, pain, and sorrow at this great loss in your lives. But I cherish the hope that you shall draw some measure of comfort from the knowledge that we, too, mourn his death; that we share your grief and sorrow with you; that your pain is also our pain; that your loss is our loss and our country’s loss as well; and that although he has passed on, he shall always occupy a special place in the minds and hearts of all freedom-loving people for his unselfish contribution during a time-span that covers three-quarters of a century.
But while we mourn his death, and rightly so, we also need to celebrate his life, and the rich legacy he has passed on to us and to future generations. Among these are his humility and simplicity, his spirit of commitment and dedication to noble causes; his willingness to make sacrifices on behalf of and in the interest of the people; his sense of loyalty to the ANC; his passion for justice; and his intense love for children and for their wellbeing .
But equally important to him was the issue of pursuing and promoting the the idea of non-racialism. And since he firmly believed that it was from the ranks of today’s youth that the leaders of tomorrow would emerge, he advocated the development of the youth as an important priority.
In addition, he was concerned about the fact that people were ignorant of our history, and therefore he believed that the promotion and preservation of our history was an absolute necessity.
He also believed in and supported the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and equality, and the release of political prisoners wherever they might be.
All these beliefs and convictions are a part and parcel of the core objectives of the Foundation named after Comrade Kathy.
And last but not least, he was very concerned about the poor and the marginalised in our society. He therefore cherished the hope that the powers that be would radically transform the political miracle of 1994 into the socio-economic miracle of the future. He was convinced that only then would the triple evils of inequality, poverty and unemployment in our society be eradicated, so that all our people would enjoy the ideal of a Better Life For All.
During the past 63 years since we first met in 1954, Kathy has been my elder brother, my best friend, and my political mentor; my comrade and my leader; my confidante, hero and role model. Over the years, he has been a pillar of strength and support to me – more especially during the long and lonely years on Robben Island, thus enabling me to see through those difficult years with grace and with dignity.
He has been one of two stars in my life who has guided me through life’s journey with remarkable consistency. The guiding light of that star has now been extinguished. That leaves a large void in my life.
At some point in our lives we shall all succumb to that inflexible law of nature that we bid farewell to this material world of ours. Should there be another world beyond this one, as Comrade Joe Slovo once said, and should we ever meet again, that joyous reunion would be a magnificent gift for both of us.
And in ending off this little tribute to you my friend and comrade, I am reminded of the immortal words of Lord Alfred Tennyson who once stated in some poem:
“And oh for the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still.”
Hamba Kahle, my brother!! And may you rest in peace – peace which you so richly deserve.
By Isu Chiba