Women in Leadership with Ahmed Kathrada

“The world has many capable female leaders that can take this country forward.”

Those were the words of the revered political stalwart, Dr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada during an exclusive dialogue with a bunch of young female social change drivers at his house in Killarney, Johannesburg on Thursday, 27August 2015.

The gathering was organised by Apple Communications founder and Activate Leadership Inland trainer, Tebogo Suping. This innovative event was also covered by one of South Africa’s prominent talk radio sstation, SAFM.

The 86-year-old former Nelson Mandela friend and political advisor relished an opportunity to share his few stories about his life and explicitly confront some dominant patriarchal issues that most women are facing.

The modest leader dismissed all personal leadership accolades but he constantly reiterated that all he had achieved was because of the collective that was driving the mandate to free South African and ultimately serve them well when he and his peers were in power.

Some of the issues that he constantly stressed were;  the role of women in South African liberation, importance of education for young leaders, youth participation in decision making processes and the desperate need for young people to unite in order to move the country forward, just to mention a few.

The history of women leadership

“I think we need to really look deep down ourselves and confront a few critical issues as a country. Those include but not limited to giving women more room to assume leadership roles. Women have always played a serious leadership role in our country’s struggle. They are still doing so. Public Protector (Thuli Madonsela) is a typical example of that. It is a pity that other parts of society choose not to speak in glowing terms about women leaders or still don’t believe in women. It is absolutely crucial for all voices and stories more especially women to be heard. There are many women formations out there. They have to lead that campaign.”

Youth must participate in decision making processes

“Young people are the majority in South Africa.  It is very important that the youth is always involved in every decision making. Of course there are power hungry people who will try to make that difficult but that does not mean young people must just assume spectator roles and watch adults take decisions that affect their lives. Today we are talking about a country with skills shortage. Why is that the case while we have young educated people in this country? I wish all competent young people like you can start now, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to serve this country.”

Sometimes youth behaviour is disappointing

“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 none violence avenues of addressing our concerns”

Unity is key

His wish to young people is that they know that freedom did not come for free and so they must always enjoy that responsibly and be more united in their quest to take South Africa. “I am very happy that what we got, what we sacrificed our families for lives. I wish young people will understand the value of our democracy. I have noticed that 90% of young peoples’ aspirations are the same but their major problem is that they are competing against each other for power or position instead of uniting” said Dr Kathrada.  

In conclusion, Dr Kathrada applauded social change drivers’ level of curiosity for their history in willingness to acquire correct leadership skills. “Thank you very for listening to me. I am impressed by your optimism and patriotism.  South Africa is indeed in good hands”, applauded Dr Kathrada

The ladies then closed the exclusive gathering by handing over a prestigious gift before taking a group photo with legendary leader.

Gauteng Connector, Bongi Ndlovukazi said the dialogue with Dr Kathrada renewed her social change driving spirit. Ndlovukazi vowed to continue using modern resources available to her to fulfil the wishes and the legacy of fallen female leaders such as, Lilian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisulu, Helen Joseph etc. “I enjoyed every second of the dialogue with Dr Kathrada. He has a very humbled infectious character that makes it easy to encourage others to excel in what they do. For me the most amazing part is that he doesn’t want to be referred to as the giant of struggle but to refer to some of his comrades like Mosses Kotane as “giants of our struggle”. I was also amazed when he said “the only regrets that he never took notes from Walter Sisulu all the years together. That was very profound” said Ndlovukazi.

Other activators such as Matshepo Moatshe, Nelishka Sighn, Olerato Serojane, Rachel Modise and Nathacia Olivia shared the same sentiments as Ndlovukazi. They all praised Dr Kathrada’s humble character and willingness to serve people of South Africa. The young mbokodos also thanked Suping for organising the dialogue with Dr Kathrada.

Event organizer, Tebogo Suping used the dialogue as one of her tools to open a platform for emerging young leaders to interact. “I organised this event because I feel it is imperative that in our quest for change (as youth) to keep the inter-generational conversation open as there are many lessons to be learned on both sides (youth and elders). I think it is important that we focus on what unites as both young and old, instead of what separates us in moving South Africa forward”, said Suping.

Suping couldn’t reveal which leader she will host next. “I am constantly on the look out to engage leaders across all levels and age groups who work selflessly and collaboratively towards developing themselves and others”, she said.

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