Programme Director, Minister Derek Hanekom;
Comrade Barbara Hogan and the Kathrada Family;
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa;
President Thabo Mbeki and President Kgalema Motlanthe;
Stalwarts and Veterans of our Liberation Struggle;
The Leadership of the African National Congress and the Alliance;
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers:
Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
MECs and Executive Mayors;
Leaders of all Political Parties here present;
Religious Leaders and Representatives of Civil Society;
Comrades and Compatriots;
I would like to welcome you all to the Heroes’ Acre at West Park Cemetery and to our province, on behalf of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the people and government of Gauteng province.
We have gathered here today to bid our fond and final farewell to Comrade Ahmed Kathrada, a man whose activism has been a consistent feature of the struggle for liberation and fundamental transformation of South Africa over the past seventy five years.
Uncle Kathy was essentially part of the team that shaped the ANC’s political strategy and tactics for every epoch of our struggle since the late 1940s. He was both a deep thinker and a man of action.
He came from a generation described by Anton Lembede (in the 1940s) as “young men and women of high moral stamina and integrity; of courage, vision and stoical discipline”.
Comrade Kathy was part of that special generation of South Africans who devoted their lives stoically, faithfully and single-mindedly to one mission: freedom in their lifetime.
Comrades and Compatriots, we are here to celebrate Uncle Kathy’s rich life of purpose and selfless service to humanity. We celebrate the life and legacy of a man who deployed his humility, intellectual wit and disarming sense of humor effectively to marshal people behind the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous society.
We are here today to pay our last respects to a man who inspired our nation by force of example; a true revolutionary who lived a life underpinned by compassion, humility, justice, equality and respect for human dignity.
As we celebrate his life, we cannot hide the fact that we are grief-stricken. We grieve not because of the tragedy of death itself. We know that death is part of life.
We grieve because his powerful but gentle presence on earth enriched so many of our own personal and political lives.
We grieve because his humility and accessibility helped to bridge the gap between different generations in the movement and in society.
We grieve because his work in promoting non-racialism was unfolding at a time when our country needs a more consistent and determined effort to build social cohesion and nation-building on the basis of genuine equality and social justice.
We grieve because his departure leaves our national life much poorer without him. Although death has tried to silence his voice, we know he still speaks loud and clear about what he stands for and what he rejects.
As we grieve, we celebrate the fact that throughout his entire life, Uncle Kathy was never silent on matters of national importance. Even as he lies here today in his coffin, he refuses to be silent.
As Martin Luther King Jr opined, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal” and that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter”.
I want to give a special word of warm welcome to the veterans and stalwarts of South Africa’s liberation struggle – the voice of reason; the consciences of our movement; the guardians of our non-racial and non-sexist traditions; the moral compasses of our nation.
I wish to thank all the stalwarts and veterans who are here and those at home. We salute you. We honour you for your life of selfless service and the sterling sacrifices you made so that South Africa can free and democratic society. You must continue to speak out and draw our attention to the mistakes we are committing in the course of our work.
As leaders, we must have the humility to listen to the voice of the stalwarts and veterans. We must be angered by anyone who insults our stalwarts and veterans. They represent the monumental honour, dignity and integrity of the liberation struggle, the priceless pride of our people and the conscience of our nation.
I urge the veterans and stalwarts to continue make their voices heard on the problems of our nation and our continent and be bold in what to do about them. They cannot be silent.
As we bid farewell to Cde Kathy, let’s rededicate ourselves to the vision espoused in the Freedom Charter and in the Constitution of our democratic Republic and conduct ourselves in accordance with the values and principles thereof.
Farewell Cde Kathy! The struggle continues!