On his 83rd birthday, struggle icon and venerable leader Ahmed Mohamed “Kathy” Kathrada was bestowed the freedom of the City of Joburg at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Kliptown, Soweto, surrounded by close family friends and life partner Barbara Hogan.
Conferring the honour, Mayor Park Tau told Kathrada and scores of guest gathered in the historic freedom square: “Your life has been dedicated to the liberation and emancipation of all South Africans. You have championed the cause of national unity in this diverse country of ours. Yours is a life spent in the defence of the dignity of every individual irrespective of gender, race or beliefs.”
Describing Kathrada as an illustrious resident of Joburg deserving of the highest accolade, Tau said people like the Rivonia Trialist and Robben Island inmate should serve as an inspiration to everyone.
ANC Chief Whip in the City of Joburg Prema Naidoo said the best tribute people could pay Kathrada was to learn and emulate his beliefs and values of a non-racial and non-sexist society.
Kathrada joins four venerable leaders and anti-apartheid veterans Walter Sisulu, Beyers Naude, Joe Slovo and Nelson Mandela.
A resolution was passed at a sitting of the City of Joburg on April 26 to grant Kathrada the Freedom of the City and that was unanimously approved. The council considered a request by ANC stalwart Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as chair of the board of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, for the City to recognise the anti-apartheid veteran.
Thanking the council for the honour, Kathrada said: “Madam Speaker, I have seen Johannesburg change from an apartheid city to the big, bustling multi-cultural metropolis that it is. It is a city that boasts many world-class facilities from stadia to some libraries.
“The Rea Vaya system and Gautrain will add to this when it is all completed. Access to services, while still to reach many has indeed improved since 1994. I am particularly pleased that my second home, Soweto, is today a completely changed place from the “dark city” that I knew it was. I can no longer find my way around.
“But (there had to be some buts!!) we need to do more. Not far from Soweto is Kliptown, and Sisulu Square. Life for many such as those around this historic venue needs to improve. The indignity of living in poverty with its associated lack of basic services must be changed. Many of us are often asked if our struggle and sacrifices were worth it. My reply is: It is true that prison, exile, and other experiences were hard, but at least we survived to see freedom.
“What about Chris Hani, Ruth Slovo, Dulcie September, and the hundreds of school kids who were killed in the 1976 Soweto uprising who did not? 18 years in the life of an individual is a long time but in the life of a country is very short.
“Much has been done; to me the most important gain for us who had been regarded as lesser human beings, is dignity as equal human beings. What is the value of wealth and palatial houses without dignity? However, we dare not for a moment forget that there is no dignity in poverty, hunger, unemployment, homelessness, schools without textbooks and much more.
“We must all work hard to ensure that we will live every day in the spirit of the World Cup and the Olympics - the spirit that brought our people together in celebration, joy and laughter, under one flag, one anthem and one united nation,” Kathrada concluded.
Kathrada is freeman of Joburg
Honour for Rivonia trialists