Prayers for Ahmed Kathrada at Liliesleaf

Condition of struggle stalwart improved but “unpredictable”, says Kathrada Foundation

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Photo of people writing on a whiteboard
People write get well messages on a board for Ahmed Kathrada. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

“Freedom did not fall from the sky, but was fought for with blood, sweat and tears.” This quote attributed to Ahmed Kathrada was read out by Busisiwe Nkosi who is part of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation during an inter-faith prayer held at Liliesleaf farm in Johannesburg, the place of Kathrada’s arrest in 1963. Nkosi called “Uncle Kathy”, as he is affectionately known, her best friend and went on to describe how his integrity and humility is something that inspires young people such as herself.

A wide spectrum of people gathered at Liliesleaf to pray for and pay tribute to Kathrada who has been in hospital since he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

Long-time friend Advocate George Bizos described how Kathrada jokingly lamented his presence whenever they were present at the same event: “What’s George Bizos doing here? He sent us to jail.”. Bizos went on to say that Kathrada then thanked him for saving him and the other Rivonia trialists from the gallows.

Also in attendance was fellow Robben Island prisoner Isu Chiba and Sophia de Bruyn, one of the women who led the Women’s Day March on 9 August 1956. “You are a fighter, you have always been a fighter. So we are asking you now please don’t give up,” said de Bruyn.

Speaking in his capacity as the chairman of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation board, Derek Hanekom called Kathrada an icon and a mentor to many. “It is no coincidence that Uncle Kathy was such a dear and close friend to Nelson Mandela‚ because they are the same‚ they think the same‚ they project the same‚ they stand for the same values. Just as Mandela was loved by millions around the world, Uncle Kathy is loved by millions of South Africans and millions around the world,” Hanekom said. He urged South Africans to work together to fulfil the vision of Kathrada and his foundation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa.

Neeshan Balton, the director of the Kathrada Foundation, provided an update on Kathrada’s health. “The good news is that in the last 48 hours there has been a remarkable recovery. He is no longer in a sedated state. He is conscious and the seizures that accompanied the operation have now stopped as well. His speech is improving‚ although that will take some time after an operation of this sort‚” Balton said. “His condition still remains unpredictable with no definite time for recovery.” Balton also urged people to get their updates on Kathrada’s health from the Kathrada Foundation and not believe malicious rumours and fake news. He said this because of false reports spread on social media that Kathrada had died.

Photo of people praying
A meeting to pray for the recovery and good health of anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada was held at Lilliesleaf in Johannesburg. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
TOPICS:  Society

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