Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada File picture: Chris Collingridge
Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada File picture: Chris Collingridge

Kathrada backs De Klerk Boulevard

By Lisa Isaacs Time of article published Feb 3, 2015

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Cape Town - Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada has come out in support of the renaming of Table Bay Boulevard after former president FW de Klerk, amid ongoing debate around the move passed in the first full city council sitting of the year last week.

“I have no objections to a road being named after the former president. While I disagreed with the policies of his political party, I am of the view that the release of political prisoners and the unbanning of political organisations placed the country firmly on to a road of a negotiated settlement, which was to culminate in the historic 1994 elections and ultimately a new constitution,” Kathrada said in a letter to the Cape Times.

Kathrada shared his views on Monday, the 25th anniversary of the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and other organisation. On the same day – February 2, 1990 – De Klerk announced the release of Nelson Mandela.

Disagreement over the proposal to rename the boulevard after De Klerk came to a head last week as the council meeting descended into chaos. Mayor Patricia de Lille and the ANC, led by Tony Ehrenreich, locked horns over the renaming as well as the eviction of Wynberg and Plumstead residents in South Road to make way for a MyCiTi bus route.

ANC councillors later threw punches at metro police when they were locked out.

On Monday, Kathrada said had it not been for De Klerk’s bold steps, the country would have spent another decade in struggle, leaving South Africa a wasteland.

“I am fully aware of the public criticism expressed by some of my friends, especially comrades who are holding prominent positions in public life.

“I had met Mr De Klerk at several functions. We developed an easy and comfortable interaction. After 26 years of my life in prison, it would be churlish of me not to say, ‘Thank you, President de Klerk’ for eventually crossing the Rubicon and rising to the occasion when the country needed you to do so,” he said.

But Ehrenreich said in response that Kathrada was an icon of the Struggle who deserved to have a street named after him. “Even now he (Kathrada) seeks the good in people. De Klerk, however, was an architect of apartheid,’’ he said.

Ehrenreich said De Klerk took a convenient decision to negotiate a peace deal that defended “white privilege”.

“The phase of reconciliation that brought together fair-minded white and black people is over. We are now engaged in a struggle for economic and social justice.”

Kathrada reflected on the day he, along with fellow political prisoners Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Wilton Mkwayi and Andrew Mlangeni, visited Mandela on Tuesday, October 10, 1989 at Groot Drakenstein Prison. “When our visit ended, Madiba said: ‘Chaps, this is farewell, because you are going to be released’. We responded: ‘We’ll believe it when it happens’.”

At 8pm that day, Kathrada said the men were “dumbfounded” when they saw a news report saying that eight prisoners were to be released. Early on the morning of Sunday, October 15, 1989, Kathrada was reunited with his family.

“Reconciliation is an ongoing process and will sometimes move at great speed, and at other times will appear to be a lost cause. It nevertheless is something that we must strive for daily,” he said.

De Lille said:”We believe that reconciliation is a process. That process asks of us to reconcile whenever the opportunity presents itself. The renaming of FW de Klerk Boulevard is one such opportunity.”

Cape Times

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