The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation thanks the South African Parliament for the planned special sitting in honour of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada.

The Foundation learnt last week Friday about the planned National Assembly tribute to the late Ahmed Kathrada, which is to take place on June 13. Invites were extended to his wife, Barbara Hogan, and the Kathrada family on June 9. Due to the late notice and it being the Muslim month of Ramadaan, the Kathrada family will be unable to honour the invite. Hogan will also be unable to attend due to another family bereavement.

The Foundation appreciates that the National Assembly is dedicating time to pay tribute to one of its first members. Kathrada served as a member of Parliament from 1994 to 1999. He was also President Nelson Mandela’s parliamentary counsellor during that period.

However, a truly fitting statement to Kathrada would be to speak to the issue that troubled him up to his last days: the conduct of President Jacob Zuma.

In this way, Parliament could fulfil its core obligations to the people of South Africa, and truly honour Ahmed Kathrada’s memory.

The tribute session comes at a time when the role of parliament and its members has come under immense scrutiny. The role of the National Assembly in holding the Executive to account is amongst the key issues of concern to many today.

It was the National Assembly’s failure to hold the President to account for the Nkandla issue and the subsequent ruling by the Constitutional Court on the matter, that prompted Kathrada to write to the President imploring him to resign. He considered such a resignation to be in the interests of the country and of the governing party.

That call has since been taken up by many, including recently, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Fedusa, the SA Council of Churches, business and labour leaders, and various organisations.

If the National Assembly was serious in its intention to honour Kathrada, it would not only lend its voice to the call made by Kathrada and many others – it would act on it when the motion of no confidence in the President comes up in the near future.

The mounting evidence of state capture is surely sufficient for Parliament to play its role as set out by the Constitutional Court in the Nkandla ruling, wherein the following is stated:

Similarly, the National Assembly, and by extension Parliament, is the embodiment of the centuries-old dreams and legitimate aspirations of all our people.  It is the voice of all South Africans, especially the poor, the voiceless and the least˗remembered.  It is the watchdog of State resources, the enforcer of fiscal discipline and cost-effectiveness for the common good of all our people.  It also bears the responsibility to play an oversight role over the Executive and State organs and ensure that constitutional and statutory obligations are properly executed. For this reason, it fulfils a pre-eminently unique role of holding the Executive accountable for the fulfilment of the promises made to the populace through the State of the Nation Address, budget speeches, policies, legislation and the Constitution, duly undergirded by the affirmation or oath of office constitutionally administered to the Executive before assumption of office.  Parliament also passes legislation with due regard to the needs and concerns of the broader South African public.  The willingness and obligation to do so is reinforced by each member’s equally irreversible public declaration of allegiance to the Republic, obedience, respect and vindication of the Constitution and all law of the Republic, to the best of her abilities.  In sum, Parliament is the mouthpiece, the eyes and the service-delivery-ensuring machinery of the people.  No doubt, it is an irreplaceable feature of good governance in South Africa.

The National Assembly has the opportunity, through the motion of no confidence, to start the process of putting the country back on track and re-focussing on the core challenges that South Africa faces.

We would urge parliamentarians to wholeheartedly support the motion of no confidence, whether it is through a secret ballot or not.

If the National Assembly really wants to pay tribute to Kathrada, its members should have the courage of conviction that defined the Rivonia generation – they must be able do the right thing and put the country first.



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