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Ahmed Kathrada Foundation slams John Steenhuisen over crude political theatrics

DA leader John Steenhuisen

DA leader John Steenhuisen has been lambasted for using Struggle hero Ahmed Kathrada’s ‘Indianness’ in his politicking in Chatsworth, south of Durban. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 24, 2023


The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has not only distanced itself from remarks made by DA leader John Steenhuisen during a recent rally in Chatsworth, south of Durban, but the Foundation says its late patron and Struggle leader would have been “appalled” that his “Indianness” was being used for narrow political gain.

The DA leader delivered a speech at its rally in Chatsworth – a predominantly Indian community – on Saturday, calling for the community to “launch a new defiance campaign” by voting for the DA at the polls.

In his speech, Steenhuisen said he would like all those present at the rally “to consider what Uncle Kathy would say about the ANC’s new racial quota law”, while referring to the Employment Equity Amendment Act.

However, in a scathing statement, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said that while it appreciated the nod to Kathrada’s contribution to the Struggle, it wondered where was this appreciation when the stalwart died, as not a single national DA leader attended his funeral. It added that the DA also failed to ever engage Kathrada to better understand his political views and life.

“Without this, one wonders how the DA can even attempt to claim to know what would be his responses to current issues,” the statement read.

In his speech, Steenhuisen told the Chatsworth community that the story of “Uncle Kathy teaches us that mass-based defiance campaigns can defeat any law that excludes people from certain jobs and areas on the basis of their skin colour.

“It is time for us – for all South Africans – to rediscover that spirit of defiance. As 2024 draws closer, we are going to need it.”

But, the foundation said it was “disturbing” that the DA assumed Kathrada would have been enthusiastic about its call for defiance of a law that will be approved by a democratic parliament.

“He would be appalled at attempts to elevate his Indianness and Struggle contribution in a crude vote-catching and fear-mongering exercise as the DA has done. Kathrada would have urged all actions by individuals and political parties to be guided by a deep conviction to political principles, and not to short term party political gains advanced through performative politics,” the statement read.

It added that while Kathrada certainly believed in mass-based defiance of unjust and oppressive laws, it was questionable whether he would support such action against legislation without this legislation being thoroughly engaged with through all the democratic channels in our constitutional democracy, including the courts.

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