The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation expresses its condolences to the family and friends of several anti-apartheid activists who passed on in recent days.
“The start of 2018 has brought along with it sad news of the passing of three deeply committed anti-apartheid stalwarts: Thanga Kollapen (mother of High Court Judge Jody Kollapen), Rica Hodgson and Keorapetse Kgositsile. All three had contributed meaningfully to our country in different ways. They leave an inspiring legacy behind,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton.
“While Thanga Kollapen political awareness stemmed from her interaction with the Transvaal Indian Congress, Rica Hodgson’s activism had its foundings in the South African Communist Party and the Congress of Democrats, while she later got involved in the work of the ANC and its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. South Africa’s National Poet Laurette, Keorapetse Kgositsile worked for the New Age newspaper, and later for the ANC in exile. Despite their different entry points into political activism, the end goal of each of the three was the same, to defeat a racist and oppressive state,” Balton said.
He added that anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada had interacted with both Kollapen and Hodgson. “Kathrada was a volunteer during the Passive Resistance Campaign alongside Kollapen and others, as well as during the 1956 Women’s March, which Kollapen had participated in.
“She was recruited to the Passive Resistance Campaign by political activists Thayanayagie ‘Thailema’ Kollapen and Manibhen Sita. She volunteered in both 1946 and 1947 to be part of the campaign, facing arrest and losing her job on both occasions.”
Balton added, “Kathrada also interacted with Hodgson. Hodgson was secretary of the Treason Trial Defence Fund, while Kathrada was one of the 156 trialists. In his Memoirs, Kathrada says of the fund, ‘Our legal fees were paid by the Treason Trial Defence Fund in South Africa and the International Defence and Aid Fund in England, which contributed most of the money to pay our lawyers and provide assistance to our families, since the long proceedings meant that many of the accused were unable to generate any income of their own.’”
Hodgson’s book, Footsoldier for Freedom: A Life in South Africa’s Liberation Movement, features a striking image of her walking a few steps ahead of Kathrada.
Hodgson was detained in 1960, and was later placed under house arrest along with her husband, Jack. The Hodgson’s flat in South Africa was used to prepare explosives for the 1961 Sabotage Campaign, and in later years in London, their home was a meeting place for activists producing underground material. Hodgson also assisted in the development of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania. She retired as secretary to Walter Sisulu in 1996.
“While Kathrada would have been in prison during the better part of Kgositsile’s time in exile where he flourished as a poet, he did meet him more recently at the arts festival in Kimberly,” Balton said.
Kgositsile worked for the New Age in the 1950s and left for exile as the apartheid government banned the paper. He lived in the US till 1975 when he left to work for the ANC in Tanzania. He returned to South Africa in 1990 and was later made the country’s National Poet Laurette.
An official memorial service was held earlier this week in Johannesburg for Kgositsile and he will be buried next week at the Westpark Cemetery. Kollapen’s funeral will be held today in Laudium. Details of Hodgson’s funeral have not yet been available.