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Memorial: Gordhan remains hopeful for a rebirth of 'Kathrada and Mandela's' ANC

Speaking at a memorial for the late Ahmed Kathrada, Pravn Gordhan said large-scale activism involving all sectors of South African society was the only way to effect change.

06/04/2017 16:23 SAST | Updated 06/04/2017 22:19 SAST
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Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Axed finance minister Pravin Gordhan made a rallying cry for South Africans to take part in large-scale activism to achieve the goals that Nelson Mandela fought for at a memorial which became an umbrella for the resistance movement to President Jacob Zuma.

Hundreds of people gathered in St George's Cathedral in Cape Town for a memorial service to the late activist Ahmed Kathrada, with speakers including Gordhan, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba and Robben Island veteran Eddie Daniels.

Pravin Gordhan's keynote address paid homage to Kathrada's beliefs of non-racialism and non-sexism, and said South Africa's focus now during this tumultuous time should be to foster a spirit of social justice. "In everything we do there will be a struggle, but if we remain united we can speed up the process of history and build a South Africa where every citizen enjoys social justice --in every sense of the phrase."

Reflecting on the weeks preceding his recent axing from the position of finance minister, Gordhan emphasized the struggle to remain principled and how that was a hallmark of Kathrada's leadership. "Comrade Kathy gave his life to South Africa and this servant leadership is what we need to oppose injustice where we find it," he said.

Gordhan acknowledged Jeremy Cronin and the SACP's call for the intelligence report that partly led to his sacking to the auditor general and calls for president Zuma to step down; for lifestyle audits for all ministers and deputy ministers; and the revoking of the Gupta family's citizenship.

Come together

He said South Africans cannot act individually, something that was core to Kathrada's beliefs. "Kathrada knew that a few activists could not bring about radical change, we must have large-scale activism.Don't remain an elitist group of activists."

That activism, said Gordhan, must be focused on the type of economic transformation that takes care of people at all levels of society. A transformation that must come "with a new sense of urgency or we will not be solving South Africa's problems".

Acknowledging that South Africans still have a long way to go to achieve these democratic ideals, Gordhan again reflected on the lives and contribution to liberation by men like Kathrada. "They knew that even if they had to die in prison, freedom would come eventually," he said of the power of unwavering belief. "Our task is to carry on building democracy."

Gordhan made a rallying cry to the youth: "To the young people among us, who amongst you is the future Kathradas and Mandelas?"

Despite anti-ANC sentiment in the cathedral, Gordhan reminded the crowd that it is the party that raised him and where his struggle roots lay. He emphasized that it is the values of "Kathrada, Mandela and Sisulu's ANC" that have been his guiding force and he remains hopeful that it is an ANC South Africa will be able to return to.

The country's problems

Last week during Kathrada's funeral, Gordhan was called up by the CEO of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton, and given applause and support from ANC members and members of the public in attendance.

Rumours of Gordhan's axing had been swirling for about a year.

On Saturday afternoon, he was called to the front at a memorial for Kathrada amidst rapturous applause and weaved his way to the lectern from his front-row seat between Derek Hanekom, the dismissed minister of tourism, and Graca Machel, the social activist and late Nelson Mandela's wife.

"This is still our African National Congress!" he said to massive cheers and spoke about how "petty and spiteful" the presidency was in postponing the Kathrada memorial.

He told the audience that there is no doubt as to what the country's problems are and who is causing them.

He was open about his battle against sponsored state capture, he named companies and insurgents and he blew the lid off efforts to manipulate and capture whole sectors of the economy to the benefit of a few.

Gordhan on Saturday also urged those present to "come out, organise, be part of something".

"We are a society with a history of mass-organising and mass-mobilisation. This other channel [the Guptas' ANN7] was saying last night I was encouraging mass-mobilisation... yes, I unashamedly am!" he said to the loudest cheers of the afternoon.