The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is concerned by the KZN ANCYL display of intolerance at a memorial held for struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada in Durban. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo
Johannesburg – The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said it is concerned by the KwaZulu-Natal African National Congress Youth League’s (ANCYL) display of intolerance at a memorial service held for anti-apartheid struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada in Durban on Sunday.

The service was hosted by the Active Citizens Movement (ACM), a forum initiated by anti-apartheid activists aimed at strengthening democracy and the values enshrined in the Constitution.

The event was supported by the Foundation. Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and African National Congress (ANC) Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize were booed and heckled when they tried to speak at the memorial.

Rowdy ANCYL members also chanted "Zuma, Zuma" drowning out the speeches of those they perceived to be opposed to President Jacob Zuma.

Since the President's midnight reshuffle, which saw Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas removed from Cabinet, there have been mounting protests against Zuma's leadership.

Zuma has since said the protest marches against him were a sign that "racism still exists".

Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton said that the KZN youth league’s conduct was disrespectful to the memory of Kathrada.

“Youth league members openly disregarded the Court order preventing them from disrupting proceedings following the urgent interdict sought by the ACM,” Balton said late on Monday.

“Disrupting the ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s speeches simply points to the intolerance of youth league members. Drowning out people’s views simply because you may differ with them is reflective of undemocratic behaviour.”

Balton said the foundation welcomed the statements by Mkhize and ANC KZN Chairperson Sihle Zikalala condemning the youth league’s behaviour.

“We note the sentiments expressed by Mkhize calling on the ANC leadership to ‘embark on political education to teach our youth tolerance and respect for the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom’. We are also aware that the ACM has called for the ANCYL to issue an unequivocal public apology.”

The ANCYL and supporters of the President have hit out at politicians and leaders of civic organisations who they said are using funerals and memorials to criticise Zuma.

However, Balton said: “We want to dispel the notion that funeral services and memorials can’t be used to promote progressive political values. Calls for the depoliticisation of funerals and memorials of political leaders is simply another form of stifling divergent views.

“Like Kathrada, there are many other stalwarts whose lives have been characterised by political activism, and whose funerals have subsequently maintained a political narrative."

“Today marks the 24th death anniversary of Chris Hani, at whose funeral Mandela delivered a political speech. Similarly, Kathrada’s speech at Mandela’s funeral was about Madiba’s political contribution to the country. More recently, Makhenkesi Stofile’s funeral also took on a political slant.”

Balton said even religious leaders had been rendering speeches with political content at the various events in honour of Kathrada.

He also addressed questions about why so many memorials services were being held for the stalwart.

“The foundation has only organised one memorial service for Kathrada, which was held in conjunction with the South African Communist Party in Johannesburg."

"All other memorials have been hosted by various other organisations, who have taken it upon themselves to initiate the events."

"We have had several other requests from organisations to host similar programmes, and we are open to supporting these provided they are in keeping with Kathrada’s values and legacy. The Foundation would not want to place a limitation on the number of tributes that others want to initiate in honour of Kathrada.”

Balton said in the coming months, the foundation would be printing and distributing copies of a booklet on Kathrada, hosting reflective events on his life and legacy in various provinces and publishing a school workbook that goes together with a DVD on his life, aimed at young people.

“The Foundation will be preserving and promoting his legacy as an activist for social change and his lifelong commitment to a non-racial, non-sexist and truly democratic South Africa,” Balton said.