An official memorial service for African National Congress stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, planned by the Presidency for Saturday morning, was unilaterally cancelled on Friday. This came after President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet in the early hours of Friday morning - getting rid of, most notably, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Gauteng section of the South African Communist Party announced on Friday afternoon that the memorial would go ahead anyway.
"The South African Communist Party Gauteng Province and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will hold their own memorial service‚ following the government cancellation of comrade Ahmed Kathrada's memorial service‚" the party said in a statement.
"The SACP and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation were looking forward to attending the government memorial service‚ which was planned to be held at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus‚ but was cancelled at the eleventh hour."
At the press conference, Kathrada's widow Barbara Hogan, who served on the Cabinets of Thabo Mbeki and Zuma as Minister of Health and of Public Enterprises, challenged all of South Africa to mobilise against the "dastardly deeds" that had been done in "dark corners". Here is her statement in full:
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"I'd like to pay a special tribute to the Kathrada family, who are sitting here with us at the moment. We felt, both myself and the Kathrada family, that when Mr K was buried on Wednesday it was one of the most fitting tributes, in the style and traditions of our mass democratic movement, that Mr K could ever have been given. And so the enormous spirit that engulfed the country at the time of his passing and his funeral was both calming and comforting, and gave us inspiration about the fighting spirit of our country.
"We welcomed a commemoration service hosted by the Presidency because that is what is befitting of a giant of our country. But let me say that last night, when the news began to filter through, about the dastardly deeds that were being done in dark corners, many of us in the family began to have second doubts whether we would want a commemoration under the auspices of a president who has clearly gone rogue. Who has clearly defied his own party. You have a deputy president saying, clearly and forthrightly today, that the removal of the finance minister and his deputy was based on a dubious intelligence report. You have the secretary-general of the ANC saying loudly and clearly: the list of ministers who are to be replaced did not come from the ANC, it came from another side.
"What does that mean to us? It means that the president is not applying his mind in making a decision about one of the most critical issues in our country, and that is a decision about a team of people who are going to lead our country. Surely that is an indictment on the president, when his own party is rejecting him. His own party rejects what he has done. If this is not a defining moment in our country, nothing will ever be a defining moment.
"Looking to citizens of our country, I think all of us are utterly dismayed. We live in this country, we love this country and we have hopes. The majority of people live desperate lives of poverty and marginalisation. That a president can think to withdraw a finance minister and his deputy from an incredibly important international roadshow, to think that he thinks he could just do that and there is no consequences for the poor, shows what an inept president we have.
"For the ordinary citizens of this country, it is time for your voices to be heard. This is not a time for petty differences amongst us to divide us. Our sworn enemies - and we all have our little fights in the progressive movement - can no longer be enemies. We have to form a broad, mass democratic alliance here to take on the forces of evil, and the rogues, and the thieves who want to steal our country from us. We need to say to people that if there are ANC councillors in their ward, they need to call that councillor and ask them what they are doing. You can no longer say, 'Oh, that's another sphere of government.' You represent the ANC, you've got to be accountable. We need to say to people, 'call on your ANC MPLs. Ask them what they're doing.' And your MPs as well. Call your MPs. When they were sworn in as MPs and MPLs, they swore an oath to the Constitution.
"Party loyalty is important, but when we are in as grave a situation as we are in today, the Constitution that we love and fought for, must take precedence over any lingering notion that party loyalty is above anything. I do not say this lightly. As Kathy said in his letter to the president, he remained silent even though there were many things that worried him. 'But,' he said, 'there is a moment in which you have to break the silence.' And this is the moment in which ANC MPs sitting in Parliament need to look into themselves and ask, 'what is the constitutional duty that is imposed upon us in terms of this Constitution?'
"There are two clauses around the Presidency in this Constitution which deal with a president that is not behaving presidentially. The Constitution provides a basis for remedying that fact. This is not silly issues of factional battles in the ANC, these are greater and grander projects about the accountability of our leadership to the rank-and-file of our people. And so I call on everyone here not to remain silent, not to sit on the fence and not to remain looking after your own narrow, self-interest. The country needs to be taken back. A country united is never divided. And this country is not for sale. Thank you."