The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has distanced itself from the speech by DA leader John Steenhuisen in which he linked the late Struggle stalwart’s ancestry to the Employment Equity Amendment Bill.
Steenhuisen delivered the speech at a rally held in Chatsworth on May 20, in the run-up to a municipal by-election.
He reminded the audience of Kathrada’s Indian ancestry and called for Chatsworth to be a site for mass-based defiance against the act.
The foundation hit back, saying Kathrada’s legacy must not be “distorted for narrow party-political gain”.
“That the DA has cited Kathrada’s role in our freedom Struggle is appreciated though one wonders where this appreciation was when Kathrada died. Not a single national DA leader chose to attend his funeral.
“One wonders where this appreciation was throughout the years after his release from prison where there was no attempt by the DA to engage him to better understand his political values and life.
“Without this one wonders how the DA can even attempt to claim to know what would be his responses to current issues,” said the foundation.
It also found the DA narrative that assumed that Kathrada would have been enthusiastic about its call for a defiance of a law that would be approved by a democratic Parliament because he was Indian disturbing.
“Kathrada abhorred racism and exploitation. He resented all efforts to sow divisions among the people of South Africa,” said the foundation.
It also pointed out that while Kathrada believed in mass-based defiance of unjust and oppressive laws, it was questionable whether he would support Steenhuisen’s call against legislation without it being “thoroughly through all the democratic channels”.
“He would be most concerned about any mass action that further divided our people along racial lines.”
The foundation also called on the DA and all political parties to refrain from using the names of liberation heroes and heroines to draw “false historical narratives and conclusions from their lives”.
The GOOD party also weighed in, and pointed out that the latest reports of the Commission for Employment Equity and StatsSA painted a “painful” picture of exclusion from the economy, nearly three decades after apartheid.
“Sixty-three percent of top management positions in the country are occupied by white employees; 74% by men and 1.6% by people with disabilities. The rate of unemployment among white South Africans is 9.4% compared with 47.3% for blacks,” said GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron.
He also said affirmative action to right historical exclusions and “mitigate irrational bias” in the employment space was not unique to South Africa.
Herron said the Employment Equity Act and the proposed regulations sought to “entice businesses employing 50 people or more to set targets to address the persistent legacy of racial and disability bias in employment – especially in senior and top management roles”.
“Although the act and regulations are not perfect, we can’t continue to ignore glaring inequalities in workspaces.
“If Steenhuisen doesn’t associate with these goals he should trek to Orania.”