|March 22, 2017
'Never fall into the trap of defending wrongdoing' - Derek Hanekom
Never fall into the trap of defending wrongdoing, chairperson of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Derek Hanekom warned on Tuesday. He was speaking at a multi-faith prayer session at Liliesleaf Farm for Ahmed Kathrada, who is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain.
"We know which party he belongs to – the ANC. I am a member of the ANC; I want to remind us about what the ANC says about uniting South Africa because we often talk about unity.
"But we are united behind what? We must never fall in the trap of uniting behind the defence of wrongdoing. This is what the ANC's own constitution says," said Hanekom.
Hanekom, who is also the minister of tourism, said the prayer session was not to pay tribute to Kathrada, but a way to say: "Kathy get better and get better fast, and we are with you and want George Bizos to be able to visit you at home". He thanked the religious leaders for the prayers. "We do not all pray but we all think, reflect and love, and we love Kathy, we admire him. We don't just treat him as a mentor, we love the man. The whole of South Africa loves the man and we love this Greek that saved them from the gallows," he said, referring to George Bizos.
He noted that Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg were the last remaining Rivonia trialists. He said gathering on Human Rights Day was about honouring the activists and the many others who made the human rights South Africans enjoy today a reality.
Bizos reminisced on the time he shared with Kathrada. He was convinced that Kathrada would not get convicted because "there was hardly any evidence against him". However, there was one piece of evidence that gave him away, Bizos said. "It was the diary of Nelson Mandela which was left here in Liliesleaf Farm. "I am saddened that I have to speak in Kathy's absence because we have met many times and we spoke the same language," he said. Bizos said he hoped to see Kathrada at another event soon.
Zorha Kathrada thanked the nation and others abroad on behalf of the Kathrada family for the support "during this trying time". "It is support like this that has kept us going through this period. On March 4 my family started the journey of the unknown...when we were told that [he] had to undergo surgery on the brain because of blood clotting, we were naturally scared and really did not know what was going to happen next," she said.
Zorha said the medical staff members treating Kathrada have been extremely helpful.
'Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated' Anti-apartheid activist Sophia de Bruyn said the gathering was an expression of the spirit of ubuntu and was meant to reassure Kathrada of the love South Africans had for him. "You have always been a fighter, in fact, we could not ask for better and we ask that you do not give up. We are with you and it is our sincere prayer that God will raise you up and grant you the good health that you deserve."
A spokesperson for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Neeshan Balton said the man fondly known as Kathy, apparently because teachers couldn't pronounce his surname, would have had something to say about rumours of his death had he been at the event. "Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated by social media and I have not joined the underground," Kathrada would have said.
Speaking about the stalwart's condition, Balton said he was confident Kathrada was going to recover.
The good news, he said, was that in the last 48 hours there had been remarkable improvement in his condition. "He is no longer in a sedated state, he is conscious, all of the seizures that accompanied the operation have stopped. His speech is improving, although it is going to take some time.
"His condition still remains unpredictable, with no time frames for recovery. Operations of this nature can take six months to recover [from] or to have any public engagement."
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba (Democratic Alliance) said he never thought that he would ever become a mayor but that the work of people such as Kathrada had made it possible. "Kathy and his team played such a major role in me becoming the mayor...I eventually became a capitalist in a country where the system did not encourage [one]." Mashaba wished Kathrada a speedy recovery. "The country and the world still needs you," he said, adding that Kathrada's legacy would last forever.
The farm in Rivonia is where Kathrada and several other anti-apartheid activists were arrested in 1963. On June 12, 1964, he and seven others, including former president Nelson Mandela, were sentenced to life in jail in the infamous Rivonia Trial.
Kathrada was hospitalised on March 4 for surgery related to blood clotting on the brain.