The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is hosting a pledge line on ITV – Channel 347 on Saturday from 8pm to midnight for the establishment of 100 community youth clubs in Ahmed Kathrada’s name.  The public is urged to support the cause.


If there was anything that anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada was ‘big on’, it was the role of the youth in shaping society.


Take for instance his views in a letter to the youth of South Africa after being banned in 1954. Kathrada wrote that the brunt of the struggle would have to “borne by the youth” and “we expect you and each and every one to play a part” in the fight against apartheid.


Many years later, in his 2013 speech at Mandela’s funeral, Kathrada stated similarly stated that “it is up to the present and next generations to take up the cudgels” where the Mandela generation had left off and “break down the barriers that still divide us”.


Today, August 21, marks what would have been Kathrada’s 89th birthday and significantly, a group of young people are expected to clean his grave at the Westpark Cemetery. This will be followed by a tradition that came to be a feature of his latter year birthdays – a visit by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to a school. This year, the Foundation will be speaking about Kathrada’s legacy to students at the Johannesburg Muslim School.


But what exactly is this legacy and why should it be of importance to young people? The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, says that the organisation has been grappling with how to best define and honour Kathrada’s legacy.


“Several months ago, one of our Board members, former President Kgalema Motlanthe, challenged us to mark Kathrada’s centenary in 2029 with work that would be both impactful and meaningful. We eventually decided that the best way to honour Kathrada’s 100 years, would be to establish 100 community youth clubs in various areas over the next ten years leading up to 2029.


“We are starting off in areas closest to where we’re based, in Lenasia, Lawley, Thembelihle and surrounding areas. We’re looking at establishing 10 clubs a year up to the centenary.”


Balton added that in the past, the Foundation’s work focussed on theoretical youth leadership development and training. “We had 60 young people come through the Foundation’s youth leadership programme annually. While it certainly benefitted participants in terms of their level of political awareness, it did less in exposing them to practical activism, where they could implement the leadership and organisation skills that they had learnt. Having community youth clubs enables young people – who will still go through an intensive activism course – to champion local issues, and at the same time build links across all sorts of barriers in the pursuit of common goals.


“The Foundation’s core objective is deepening non-racialism. Through these youth clubs, we will see young people emerging as anti-racism activists. Through their work, they will in essence, embody the Constitutional ideal of non-racialism.”


The youth clubs programme is expected to kick off on August 25th with the launch of an activism manual based on the life of Kathrada. It’s called, Igniting Your Power – Change Starts with Youth. That evening, from 8pm to midnight on ITV, Channel 347 on DStv, the Foundation will embark on a pledge line campaign aimed at funding the youth clubs.


“We need funding for everything from full time youth coordinators, to facilitators, the publishing of material and the general logistics of running professional youth clubs. It’s a massive feat, but we’re hoping that people will support the initiative,” Balton said. “We urge the public to tune in on the night, call the number on the screen and pledge generously towards this centenary project.”


August also marks the Foundation’s 10th anniversary. Balton reflected, “It seems like just yesterday that Ahmed Kathrada was with us launching the Foundation; at the forefront of pickets and protests; speaking at seminars; and engaging young people. It’s difficult to be marking 10 years of our existence without him. Yet, I think that the legacy of his generation – that of fighting for social justice, of tackling racism, of building a society founded on progressive values and investing in youth leadership – is something that we’re committed to continuing.”


He added, “In the current climate of instability, growing restlessness, heightened racial tensions and the rise of the global right, we cannot afford to ignore that legacy or not draw lessons from it. The society envisioned by the Kathrada generation is something that we – and especially young people – ought to continue striving for. In essence, we have to pick up the cudgels where the Kathrada and Mandela generation had left off.”

To donate online to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s youth programme, click

This article first appeared on The Post Newspaper 


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