On 15 April 2009, the 80th birthday of Mr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada was celebrated with great pomp and prestige at the Trade Route Mall, in Johannesburg. The occasion also marked the introduction of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation that was established to promote the ideals that Mr Kathrada as well as the other struggle veterans stood for. It was officiated by a range of dignitaries that included the President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, Vice President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe, The Indian High Commissioner Mr. R. K. Bhatia, Minister Barbara Hogan, Minister Tokyo Sexwale, and other freedom struggle veterans.
Although the event was filled with much fun and laughter, it carried a clear undertone that all present felt and clearly understood: the freedom of South Africa was not achieved by any one individual, but through the collective and concerted effort of many selfless people who had sacrificed their own lives, and their families for the nation. These sacrifices have been and will always continue to be felt for generations to come as we constantly remember the price paid for every citizen in South Africa to live as equal and free individuals.
Mr R. K. Bhatia, the High Commissioner of India, emotionally mentioned that as he grew up, he had asked has father what it was like to live in the time of Mahatma Gandhi and he listened in awe when he was told of their experiences. Then as his own children grew up, they asked him what it was like to live in the time of Pundit Nehru, and they too listened in awe as he narrated his experiences. However, those present at the event were very privileged to be sitting in a room full of so many ‘Mahatmas’ and other great people like Ahmed Kathrada.
Mr Zuma spoke at length and paid tribute to the contributions of Mr Kathrada and others in the struggle. He told of the extreme conditions in which they had lived. He also spoke of the Freedom Charter that was written decades ago and which focussed on the equality of all citizens in South Africa, including the then ‘white citizens and/or oppressors’.
Mr Kathrada paid tribute to many people: some well-known and famous; others that are barely known today, but who made a great contribution to the freedom struggle. He also paid a great tribute to Mr Zuma, the President, for his contributions both in the struggle as well as currently. He clearly narrated that during the days of incarceration on Robben Island; only those that had money could afford to study. Mr Zuma, having come from a very poor background, could not afford to study in his 10 years in prison. However, their colleagues in prison, had through their own studying, shared their material and knowledge with Mr Zuma over those years. In addition to this, the times spent in the struggle as well as in prison were a part of the informal education of Mr Zuma. He said that due to these lessons and shared learning, President Zuma was not an uneducated man as incorrectly claimed by his critics and that he was more than adequately qualified to be occupying the highest office of the land.
Many that were present, including Team SUTRA, spent much time interacting with all the guests including President Jacob Zuma, other state officials, and noted that they were extremely humble people who were ever willing to interact with the guests. They even shared a joke or two in between. The President also took time to officially receive a copy of the previous edition of SUTRA Magazine and autographed a copy to show his support to Team SUTRA!
ISSUE 9 SUTRA™
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