Tribute to a South African Warrior for Justice

Our friend Ahmed Kathrada was a timeless and tireless warrior for justice and human rights. We and the world must carry on his legacy.

With South Africa and the world, Shared Interest deeply mourns the loss of Ahmed ("Kathy") Kathrada - a gentle but fearless warrior in the struggle to end apartheid and establish a just society rooted in human rights. After spending 26 years in prison - 18 of them on Robben Island with other Rivonia trialists, including his friends and mentors Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu - he was released in 1989, and assisted with the task of birthing and building the new nation. He was elected to the ANC's National Executive Committee, elected to Parliament, served as Parliamentary Counsellor to President Mandela. Later he launched his own foundation and chaired the Robben Island Museum Council.

Several Shared Interest delegations were privileged to visit Robben Island with him, where he helped us learn from the past to see the future. "While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil; a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness; a triumph of the new South Africa over the old."

Together with his beloved wife, Barbara Hogan, an ANC activist jailed for treason during apartheid and later an MP and cabinet minister, he continued long after apartheid as a fearless voice to hold the country to its highest principles. Gifted with a keen intellect and memory, Kathy was praised by Mandela as "an important depository for organisational memory" and keeper of the history of the liberation movement. He was also its soul. He lived and practiced the tools of transformation, noting "hatred, revenge bitterness - these are negative emotions. The person harbouring those emotions suffers more."

"In death," Kathy said, "you once more challenge people from every strata, religion, and position to think about how their own actions do and can change the world for better or worse." With his life and now his passing, once again Kathy has challenged us.

Hamba kahle, Kathy. We will do our best.


Donna Katzin

Executive Director

Shared Interest

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