Tuesday, 28 March 2017
The South African Human Rights Commission, Commissioners, its staff and the human rights community are deeply saddened by the passing of Ahmed Kathrada, an unwavering warrior for human rights and a committed fighter in the struggle for freedom for all. The nation’s tragic loss comes at the end of Human Rights month, a stark reminder of what he and so many fought to realise.
Ahmed Kathrada’s dedication to equality was exemplary. His life proved that age was no barrier to standing up in defence of the inherent human rights – his activism began in childhood and continued throughout his life, undeterred by arrest, imprisonment, banning, or ill health.
“What Uncle Kathy taught us all is that you never retire when you fight for human rights. The fight continues until your very last breath.” said Advocate Bongani Majola, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, at the commemorative meeting of all Commissioners and staff.
Uncle Kathy’s legacy – from his involvement in the Defiance Campaign in 1952; to his innumerable arrests; his involvement in the movement that culminated in the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955, that led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter; to his arrest and trial along with 156 others in the treason trial in 1956 – stand as a blueprint for all who believe in a democratic, non-racial, South Africa.
His steadfast adherence to the principles of equality, dignity, and human rights for all, as enshrined in our Constitution, remained unabated to the very end.
We value the contribution the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation made at the Commission’s recent National Investigative Hearing on Racism and Social Media. The human rights community will forever be indebted to Ahmed Kathrada and his fellow stalwarts such as Former President Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, for their contribution in advancing the realisation of human rights.
His steadfast stewardship since our transition to a democracy marked him as an exemplar of the kind of citizenship required in a participatory constitutional democracy. Ahmed Kathrada brought the same unwavering commitment to the principles that sustained his activism under apartheid to bear on his work and contributions during democracy. He remained committed to the long-term project of achieving the goals of our Constitution, recognising that transformation of South Africa’s social and political institutions demanded both active participation and an on-going dedication to achieving socio-economic transformation.
The Commission extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends, and comrades.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission.