Shaikh SA’DULLAH KHAN pays tribute to a life lived in the service of humanity.
THE world bade farewell to liberation stalwart, Ahmed Mohammed Kathrada, a fearless, courageous, revered anti-apartheid veteran, an exemplary mentor, radical revolutionary with a humble soul, the gentle uncle of the struggle.
Uncle Kathy experienced torture, underwent decades of incarceration and had to endure the pain of separation due to his principled stand for the freedom of others.
His unwavering loyalty to this higher cause made him dedicate his life to building a nation unfettered by discrimination and corruption; fighting for a government that would care about the aged and the young, the oppressed and vulnerable.
Due to his aversion to inhumanity, his lifelong focus was on an unwavering striving for human dignity, equality, liberty and justice.
Upon his release from prison, he dedicated himself to enlighten the world about the evils of apartheid as he exemplified the lessons of reconciliation he had learnt through his decades of struggle.
Undeterred by the clamour of glory
Ahmed Kathrada will always be remembered as a profoundly wise gentleman, principled and dedicated, who did not surrender to the glitz of the political limelight but, rather, remained unapologetic about his lifelong obligation to the ongoing project of freedom and liberation in South Africa, Palestine and elsewhere in the world.
He remained undeterred by the hubbub of glory; maintained his humility and unpretentiousness in the face of the global attention drawn by the fruits of the freedom struggle in South Africa.
He believed in the duty of political vocation, despite knowing the tendency for governmental office to often become blemished by the vanity of political self-importance. He was neither enticed by the trappings of political power nor tarnished by the taint of tenders.
Sense of justice
He was unyielding in the pursuance of justice, whether being defiant as a powerful voice of a revolutionary in the face of racist government or standing firm on principles demanding accountability from ‘comrade’ leaders who sacrifice the objectives of the struggle at the altar of greedy, selfish, self-interests.
His incorruptible sense of integrity compelled him to publicly address his concern about those in authority who were deviating from standards imbued in the Freedom Charter and tainting the values enshrined in that historic document, condemning the despicable acts of those who prioritised private gains above public interest.
His persistent pursuit of equality was like a glowing candle that exposed to South Africans how low some leaders have fallen in the shadow of the Mandela-Kathrada generation.
As his passing ushers the dusk of an era, it remains the responsibility of people of conscience to ensure that the gains made by such selfless struggle is never undone, and that our freedom won on the blood of heroes like Steve Biko and Imam Haron is not auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Ahmed Kathrada was a profound man of the highest integrity who, through his evident humility and overwhelming humanity, inspired our collective self-respect; whose existence was a principled epic journey of the human spirit. He lived a heroic life and died a role model.
Hamba kahle Uncle Kathy.
Shaikh Sa’dullah Khan is the CEO of Islamia College, Cape Town. This is an edited version of the tribute delivered by Shaikh Sa’dullah Khan as the opening address at the Ahmed Kathrada Memorial held at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, on Thursday, April 6, 2017.