Message from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation by Board Member Prema Naidoo
On Saturday, 5 August 2023, Sastri College, Durban
Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on the passing of Comrade Doctor Farouk Meer.
Today is an historic day. Exactly 61 years ago, a disguised Nelson Mandela left Durban for Johannesburg but his journey was cut short in Howick. From that day on, Madiba spent more than 27 years behind bars.
It is well-known that Ahmed Kathrada was a close friend and comrade of Cde Farouk’s sister Fatima and his brother-in-law, Ismail Meer.
Throughout his 26 years of incarceration, Cde Kathy was in touch by letter – directly or indirectly – with the Meer family. This was renewed after his release in 1989.
I bring greetings and condolences from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and activists who were involved in the Transvaal Indian Congress in the 1980s, to our comrades and compatriots in KwaZulu-Natal.
In Johannesburg in the early 1970s, I was involved in an organisation called the Human Rights Committee with people such as Sheila Weinberg, Eliot Shabangu and Mohamed Timol.
Our committee was very interested in understanding the idea behind the revival of the Natal Indian Congress in 1971. Cde Phyllis Naidoo kept me abreast of these developments, even though she was banned at the time.
That’s when I first heard about Dr Farouk Meer and the key role he was beginning to play.
Some years later, after Phyllis went into exile, I started speaking with Cde Yunus Mahomed, when he regularly visited his parents in Johannesburg.
Yunus would brief me on the work of the Natal Indian Congress and the emerging grassroots civic movements. He spoke highly of Cde Farouk as a disciplined, articulate and committed member of the movement.
Cde Farouk was among a host of Natal comrades who were detained during the 1980 school boycotts in predominantly Coloured and Indian areas. I remember Abba Omar, Yunus Sheikh, Paul David, Farouk Meer and others who were brought from Natal to Modderbee Prison in Benoni on the East Rand.
My older brother Murti was also detained there during that time and I regularly visited the prison. My job was to take food to the comrades but it was the beginning of a strong comradely relationship with our Natal comrades.
In the old Transvaal, we embarked on civic struggles and the powerful Anti-SAIC campaign of 1981. At the Transvaal Anti-SAIC conference of January 1983, we decided to revive the Transvaal Indian Congress and establish the United Democratic Front.
It is now 40 years since those historic decisions were made. During the Anti-Tricameral Campaign, the TIC and NIC developed close working relationships.
I remember many joint executive meetings that were held in either Newcastle or Ladysmith, where we strategized jointly.
When the TIC and NIC led a huge delegation to meet the ANC in Lusaka in 1988, Cde Farouk was also present.
It is at these engagements that I got to know Cde Farouk well and was deeply impressed by his eloquence, insight and leadership.
The meetings continued during the dark days of the Pietermaritzburg Treason Trial where TIC executive members Dr Essop Jassat and Cassim Saloojee were on trial with NIC and UDF leaders.
We persevered during the states of emergency, detentions and bannings in the mid to late 1980s until the breakthrough of the early 1990s.
Ismail Momoniat, known to many comrades here as ‘Momo’, was secretary of the Transvaal Anti-SAIC Committee and the TIC during the 1980s. He is unable to attend in person today and sends his greetings to all. He has also sent a message of condolence that includes details of his collaboration with Farouk when both were secretaries of their respective Congresses.
We will not forget the great contribution made by Cde Farouk and others in the fight for freedom. I know that he was deeply troubled by the slide into corruption and maladministration that characterized our movement for many years of the democratic era.
We owe it Cde Farouk and many of our late veterans who have given their lives to the cause of freedom by renewing our commitment to clean government and justice for all.
On behalf of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, may I offer our deepest condolences to Cde Farouk’s wife Rashida, children and grandchildren as well as his extended family, friends and comrades. May he rest in eternal peace.
Long live the spirit of Cde Farouk Meer long live!