The South African Communist Party stands up today to lower its red banner in honour of this revolutionary stalwart, Cde Ahmed Kathrada, a cadre and leader of our liberation movement, a communist and a principled champion of a non-racial South Africa till the end. We also stand today to give our most heartfelt condolences to his partner, Cde Barbara Hogan and the rest of the Kathrada family, as well as all his comrades and friends in our broader national liberation movement.
To us as the SACP, Cde Kathy has been part of our family for decades. Cde Kathy joined the ranks of the Young Communist League in the 1940s at the tender age of 12 years and his early politicization was through the then Communist Party of South Africa and the Transvaal Indian Congress under the leadership of Dr Yusuf Dadoo, who was later to become the General Secretary and National Chairperson of the SACP.
Cde Kathy was part of a generation that was ahead of its times. At the height of racial oppression, including the victory of the National Party in 1948, it would have seemed easier for the likes of Cde Kathy to mobilise the black oppressed on the basis of anti-white politics and racial chauvinism. But because they were far-sighted their answer to colonial and apartheid racism was a superior goal, that of building non-racialism! Building non-racialism is a task we must never take for granted.
However, Cde Kathy also understood that the struggle for non-racialism is inseperable from the struggle against class exploitation and partriarchy! This is a lesson we have learnt from the likes of Cde Kathy as a younger generation, and must be learnt by future generations. We must also thank Cde Kathy’s generation for having built a giant non-racial organization like the ANC. In honour of Cde Kathy we have a duty to defend and protect this organization at all costs so that it remains true to its mission as a people’s movement. We thank them for their foresight in building and leaving us a Communist Party, a vanguard organization of the working class, allied to the ANC. We must also look after it!
Cde Kathy’s politics was formed through community activism in the passive resistance campaigns and against the so-called Ghetto Act. He was also active in student politics and led the South African delegation to the World Festival of Youth and students in Berlin in 1951. He subsequently worked full time for nine months at the headquarters of the World Federation of Democratic Youth. He was an internationalist and fighter against imperialism from a very young age, who also witnessed the defeat of fascism in Europe and thanks to the Soviet Red Army. He believed strongly that a new world of peace and justice was indeed possible!
Back in South Africa, he was active in the growing co-operation between the ANC and the Indian Congresses. This was a key moment in deepening the non-racial values of our struggle of our struggle in practice and activism. As I said, they were indeed ahead of their times! It is important to remember this history at a time when a parasitic patronage network is today seeking to hide its intentions to loot the state resources behind a veneer of narrow African chauvinism, and monopoly capital seeking to capture our state through the exploitation of the black majority.
After his release from prison in the late 1980s Cde Kathy served in the interim national committee of the ANC, and later elected to the ANC NEC in 1991.
As we say goodbye to Cde Kathy, the SACP also regrets that we never interviewed him in detail about key aspects of the history of the SACP, especially between its reconstitution underground in 1953 till his arrest in 1963. Cde Kathy was not only an encyclopedia of the liberation struggle, but was particularly such an encyclopedia of the history of the SACP between the 1940s and the early 1960s.
Let us remember Cde Kathy for his humbleness, simplicity, sacrifice and love for the African people and the rest of the oppressed of the world. Let us teach the current and future generations about this giant as part of building a new and better South Africa. Cde Kathy leaves us at the time when our movement desperately needs the wisdom of people like him. In the name of Cde Kathy, let us defend the political authority and morality of our movement, for the sake of our country and its future generations!