Johannesburg – The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) on Thursday came out in defence of President Jacob Zuma who was barred from the funeral of struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, saying funerals of struggle icons should not be used for "political posturing".
On Wednesday at the struggle icon's funeral, former president Kgalema Motlanthe received a standing ovation and loud cheers from many as he read out parts of the letter written by Kathrada to Zuma in which he asked the President to resign.
Cabinet Ministers Pravin Gordhan and Aaron Motsoaledi were among those who stood up after Motlanthe had spoken. Others included Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and unionist Zwelinzima Vavi, Zelda la Grange – Nelson Mandela's former personal assistant and former Speaker of Parliament and ANC senior member Max Sisulu.
However, on Thursday the ANCYL said it "condemns in the strongest possible manner the usage of funerals of our stalwarts for political posturing, point-scoring and grandstanding".
In a statement issued by the Secretary General Njabulo Nzuza the ANCYL said it was "disturbed and angered at the knowledge that ANC President Cde Jacob Zuma was practically barred from attending and mourning at the funeral of Isithwalandwe Ahmed Kathrada".
The ANCYL added: "In our statement mourning the passing of this giant of our liberation movement, we remembered the role that Uncle Kathy played as a militant youth leader that fearlessly took on the apartheid machinery head on.
"We remembered uncle Kathy as part of those who led the defiance campaign, later a Rivonia Trialist who alongside Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life-imprisonment on Robben Island. "Instead of learning about this inspirational role of uncle Kathy, those with factionalist lust and suffer from lack of occasion missed the opportunity to educate us about uncle Kathy."
The ANCYL said the chairperson of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Derek Hanekom has "shamelessly used his privileged position" to fight his own battles by barring the President from attending the funeral of his own comrade.
"We respect and applaud President Zuma for respecting the 'wishes of the family' and to declare the funeral as a Special Funeral, however the usage of this funeral to attack the President of the ANC will not be accepted by the ANC Youth League."
"Even washed up pensioned politicians who are still to recover from Mangaung hangover have found themselves unable to contain their hatred for the President, they even go to an extend of using a funeral to vent out at the movement. The ANCYL said from now on it will "tackle head on" anybody that "willy nilly attacks the President".