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Mr K: The Memory Of A Movement

The Nelson Mandela Foundation's Professor Njabulo Ndebele honours the departed Ahmed Kathrada for his achievements in memory work.

28/03/2017 07:54 SAST | Updated 28/03/2017 10:51 SAST

The sadness felt by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and everyone associated with it at the passing of Ahmed 'Kathy' Kathrada is inexpressible. He was a comrade, associate and close friend of Nelson Mandela's through seven decades. And he was a much-loved trustee of the Foundation's for many years.

'Mr K', as he was affectionately known at the Foundation, played a pivotal role both in the establishment of the organisation in 1999 as Mr Mandela's post-presidential office and in its later growth as an NGO promoting social justice through dialogue and memory work. He was our wise counsellor, our stern critic, our best friend.

Mr K's biography is well-known. He was a member of that generation of South African leadership which made a post-apartheid conceivable. His commitment to core values was unshakeable, inspiring a life-time of service and informing a rejection, right to the end, of the abuse of power in any form.

In so many ways Mr K was the memory of a movement. He worked with Mr Mandela on Long Walk to Freedom at the outset (1975) and at the end (1994). He co-created the Robben Island Museum. He published many personal memories. He served long years on structures supporting national orders. He founded an organisation (the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation) committed to deepening long traditions of non-racialism. The list of his memory work is long.

But we will remember him, fundamentally, as the embodiment of promise for a liberatory future. He worked for that future to the end. He walked the walk. He never wavered.

We miss him already, and always will. We thank his beloved Barbara and everyone else who gave him the strength he needed always to go the extra mile.

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