Tribute to Mr. Ahmed Kathrada, ANC member of parliament: 1994 - 1999

2017-06-13
Dr Pieter Mulder

Speaker

Mr. Ahmed Kathrada was a member of the first parliament after 1994. He served from 1994 to 1999. I am one of the few members left in this fifth parliament that served with Mr. Kathrada in that first parliament. We are only about twelve members left in this parliament that also served in the 1994 parliament.

On many points, I differed from Mr. Kathrada, but we also had many points in common.

He was born in the small Northwest town of Schweizer-Reneke and I lived in Schweizer-Reneke for several years. We often shared our memories of Schweizer-Reneke.

We also shared an attitude of searching for win-win solutions that accommodate all in South Africa – leading to positive debates.

In that first parliament, the atmosphere was totally different from what we experience today in this parliament. Because we were writing the 1996 constitution we had weekly discussions and debates - mostly in small groups on how we see the future of South Africa.

We were forced to listen to each other and had to try and understand the other person’s viewpoints. In this Mr. Kathrada was a good listener and debater looking for win-win solutions. As Freedom Front we had regular discussions with Mr. Kathrada as he was appointed as the political advisor to president Mandela in the newly created post of Parliamentary Counsellor.

What did I learn from those days? That I do not mind that you criticize me for what I believe in, but do not criticize me for what you think I believe in. I learned that from those discussions and from Mr. Kathrada’s viewpoints. I miss this in our present parliament where we debate each other without really trying to understand what exactly the other side said or believes in.

Ek wil dit in Afrikaans herhaal. Ek gee nie om dat jy my kritiseer vir dit waarin ek glo nie, maar ek is uiters gefrustreerd as jy my kritiseer vir dit wat jy dink ek glo -- sonder dat jy ooit moeite gedoen het om my werklike standpunte te leer ken of te probeer verstaan.

With this attitude of Mr. Kathrada he invited me in 2012 to make a speech at the annual Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Conference on what does unity in diversity mean for me as an Afrikaner.

Mr. Kathrada’s strongest qualities were friendliness and humility, but one should not for one minute doubts his iron resolve to achieve his goals.
When we are young, we all have dreams as to how we will change the world and how we shall put our stamp on it. It is given to few persons to live out their dreams in their lifetime. Mr. Kathrada succeeded in doing this. Against big odds, he had realized the vision he had as a young man.

A leader, who acts merely to be popular, isn’t a real leader. A real leader must be prepared to go against the majority, because he/she knows that they are wrong and he/she must provide leadership to them in doing so. It is not always easy. Mr. Kathrada was such a leader up to the end where he criticised leaders that he differed from.

No-one can deny the impact that Mr. Kathrada had made on South Africa. The reaction following his death confirms this.

On behalf of the Freedom Front Plus I wish to express my sympathy with Mr Kathrada’s family and also with Barbara Hogan that I also learned to know better in those beginning days.


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