STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE
Note to editors: the following speech was delivered by the City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, at a special tribute session to Ahmed Kathrada at the full Council meeting today, 29 March 2017.
It is indeed a sad day as we are still reeling from the loss of a gentle giant, Struggle stalwart, and a guardian of our hard-won freedom, Ahmed Kathrada.
Yesterday morning we awoke to the news that Uncle Kathy, a Freeman of the City, is no more.
We have lost a wonderful soul and a man who fought courageously and with conviction against the unjust forces of the apartheid regime.
At Tata Madiba’s funeral, he said: ‘When Walter [Sisulu] died, I lost a father and now I have lost a brother. My life is in a void and I don’t know who to turn to’.
We believe that he is now at peace with the other great fathers of our democracy.To honour Uncle Kathy’s contribution in attaining our freedom, in 2015 the City of Cape Town awarded the highest honour to Uncle Kathy – the Freedom of the City – where he joined fellow Freeman Tata Madiba and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
In awarding this honour, his citation read: ‘The life of Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada has been a chronicle of the journey for the fight for freedom. His voyage started with his involvement in the struggle against apartheid in 1941.
‘His life is deeply woven into the tapestry of Cape Town’s history and heritage and his sacrifices and humility will remain a lasting inspiration for the coming generations. His story will endure as a moral compass for our democracy.
‘Mr Kathrada’s life has shown us the power of forgiveness and shines a light on the path leading to the values of our Constitution’.
We were honoured to have Uncle Kathy call Cape Town his home for the past few decades and that in his quest for a non-racial society, he endorsed the City’s Inclusive City/Anti-Racism Campaign.
He remained a counsellor to our young country in the project of reconciliation.
I remember a heartrending moment when, during one of our Inclusive City dialogues, Uncle Kathy gave a powerful testimonial recounting how he arrived at his determination to build a non-racial society.
He recounted visiting the former death camps of Nazi Germany, where millions of people were murdered.
He described seeing lampshades made with the skin of murdered Jews and understood in that moment the dark cul de sac that the impulse and logic of racial essentialism leads to.
His humility, grace, and quiet determination are a reminder of the very best qualities of servant leadership.
He lived as an example to us every day and his legacy is such that it will reverberate for generations to come.
Mr Speaker, that legacy can only live on if we as current leaders continue to live by the values enshrined in our Constitution and follow the examples of Uncle Kathy and Tata Madiba.
We mourn a great man, an icon, and a guardian of our freedom who continued to speak truth to power till his last days.
The City of Cape Town extends our deepest condolences to his partner, Barbara Hogan, his family and friends, and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
The City will be consulting the family about arranging a memorial service.
We will forever be indebted to him for his sacrifices and contribution in the fight for our democracy and human rights.
Hamba Kahle Uncle Kathy. We will always cling to your example as one of our country’s great moral compasses. Rest in peace.