Remembering A True Hero – Dr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada

This morning marked one of the saddest days in South African history, as we begin to mourn the passing of one of our last remaining true heroes, Dr Ahmed Kathrada.

Dozens of Activators, leaders, activists, ordinary men and women across the country have joined millions of South Africans who have shared tribute messages to the late Dr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada (better known as ‘Uncle Kathy’).

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers communications manager, Nelisa Ngqulana, fervently recalls Uncle Kathy’s unyielding attitude towards young leaders who want to move the country forward. This was strongly illustrated by his unwavering willingness to have conversations with the youth of South Africa.

Nelisa recalls,

We met Ahmed Kathrada at the founding conference of the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa in 2015. After our initial engagement, we asked him if he would be available to have a conversation with youth leaders at ACTIVATE! With swift readiness, he agreed. At this point, he was already looking frail and I felt that a huge event would be too much for him. Therefore, a recorded interview with him meant that we could have something to keep in our archives. He volunteered to open up his home to us, and from that moment onwards, he became an Activate! Change Driver’’.

Another Activate! Change Driver, Tebogo Suping, who had worked with him on a number of youth initiatives reminisced,

As one of the few young people who have had engagements with the late Dr Ahmed Kathrada, I was always amazed by his selfless courage to speak the truth to authority regardless of who is in power or deadly consequences. As young leader, his resolute leadership style – one should never depart or sacrifice his principles and integrity in anything that he or she does. It is without a doubt that his sad passing is a serious loss and one can only wonder if we still have people of his calibre who are willing to walk the talk”.

South African activist and policy researcher, Pearl Pillay, described Uncle Kathy as an intelligent, disciplined and selfless teacher of social justice. As well as a revolutionary who, even at the worst of times, reminded us that he was just a young person who fought for what he believed in. May we all strive to continue his legacy, through our words, our actions, and our commitment to building a better South Africa.

Each and every Activate! Change Driver who had worked with the late Dr Kathrada could not contain their gratefulness for his contributions towards their own lives as young people. We all remember him as a very humble father who had the most infectious charm and character. So much that he despised being referred to as a giant or a great (which he was) in the struggle against Apartheid.  

The stalwart will be remembered as a grand patriot who was a very passionate supporter of human rights, and his overwhelming love for young people. During his last conversation with us as Activators, his very last advice was that we as young leaders need to invent creative and non-violent ways of navigating our way as the youth around the current socio-political landscape.

“I really understand the youth’s frustration with some other issues that are not going well in this country. So I don’t condemn or recommend what young people are doing but mine is to just suggest that young people must follow the right channels. Burning down clinics, schools, libraries and other government establishments does come as counter revolution for me.  I do think that there are a number of accessible non-violence avenues of addressing our concerns.”

Dr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim religious rites. Details of the burial will be made public in due course.

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