JOHANNESBURG – Former president Kgalema Motlanthe has used Ahmed Kathrada’s funeral to quote the late stalwart’s letter in which he asked President Jacob Zuma to resign.
Motlanthe started off by speaking only about Kathrada’s contribution to the country’s liberation.
“It would be disingenuous to pay tribute to the life of comrade Ahmed Kathrada and pretend that he was not deeply disturbed by the current post-apartheid failure of politics.”
Motlanthe received a standing ovation and loud cheers from many in the crowd as he then read out parts of the letter saying: “Comrade Kathy continues bluntly if not arrogantly, ‘In the face of such persistently widespread criticism, condemnation and demand, is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum, to consider stepping down?'”
Shortly after this, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was asked to stand up so all in attendance could see him.
He too received a standing ovation.
The Finance Minister returned home to political uncertainty on Tuesday having been hastily summoned back by Zuma.
The Presidency has still not provided any explanation 72 hours after the instruction to return came to light.
Zuma himself is not at the funeral. The Presidency released a statement this morning indicating that he would not attend as per the wishes of the Kathrada family.
Kathrada‘s family also took to the stage, saying he played a huge role in their lives and instilled important values in the younger generation.
An emotional Nazir Kathrada paid tribute to his uncle at the Westpark Cemetery on Wednesday morning.
GALLERY: Funeral of Ahmed Kathrada
The freedom icon died on Monday at the Donald Gordan Medical Centre, at the age of 87.
Kathrada’s nephew says he was a humble person.
“Kathy has always been integral in my life. I was six months old when he was arrested in 1964. From the time I turned 18, I started visiting him in prison. We discussed the goings-on at home, family, friends, politics, tolerance and my life. Kathy’s embodiment of justice has guided my life.”
COMRADES LOOK BACK
Freedom fighter Laloo Chiba also paid tribute to his longtime friend and comrade, saying although it’s a sad time for the country and Kathrada’s rich legacy needs to be celebrated.
“And while we mourn his death we also need to celebrate his life, and the rich legacy he has passed on to us and future generations.”
African National Congress veteran Sophia de Bruyn shared a funny memory of her friend.
“I met comrade Kathy many years ago, in the 50s. I met him at a party and he couldn’t dance. He had two left feet, but he loved dancing. We remained friends from that time until now.”
LISTEN: Ahmed Kathrada: A gentle freedom warrior
Congress of South African Trade Unions’ Bheki Ntshalintshali evoked Kathrada’s words when he said leaders should always not be bigger than the organisations they serve.
“We must separate leaders from the organisation. Leaders will come and go, but an organisation will remain. No matter how popular you become, you’re never bigger than the organisation.”
He says the stalwart always believed that leaders come and go but organisations remain, making reference to how the veteran wrote a letter to President Jacob Zuma last year when he believed the ANC was headed in the wrong direction.
The South African Communist Party’s Blade Nzimande also paid tribute on behalf of the organisation.
LAID TO REST
The procession moved from the marquee to the burial site where Kathrada was laid to rest.
Wrapped in three sheets of white cloth, Kathrada’s body was taken out the coffin and buried.
Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat explained the process.
“The body is brought to a grave that is dug facing in the direction of Mecca. The knots at the two ends of the shroud are loosened, the body is placed in the niche at a slight angle and planks are placed behind the body. The grave will then be filled with sand.”