Posted on September 29, 2016
The Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership (ALCRL) staff and an associate is privileged to have been afforded the opportunity of being hosted by the struggle stalwart Dr Ahmed Kathrada.
The invitation formed part of the process for the ALCRL's ongoing development of the Chief Albert Luthuli tribute book. Kathy, as he is affectionately known, is a former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist who spent 26 years in jail in a commendable quest to see this country become non-racial, free and democratic.
Dr Kathrada, a gentle and modest man, recounted his encounters with Chief Luthuli. Although Kathrada was still young at the time, he could identify Luthuli's leadership qualities of selflessness, humility and a sense of responsibility in every endeavour he undertook. Luthuli was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, which bears testimony to his qualities as a man of peace and unflinching courage who greatly desired to see this country prosper.
A personal friend and cellmate of Nelson Mandela for 26 years, Dr Kathrada recalled how he turned down privileges afforded to him in prison because he was an Indian, but was persuaded by Nelson Mandela not to 'give up whatever you already got'. 'Mandela was right,' says Kathrada, 'we've got to fight for equality'. He met Mandela when he was a teenager at school, though Mandela was older than him. What struck him most was how he spoke to everyone as equals. 'He made me comfortable,' says Kathrada, 'this was the hallmark of his leadership qualities'.
When asked about waves of student protestation across higher education institutions, Kathrada – who obtained four degrees while in prison – said: 'I sympathise whole-heartedly with students who can't afford quality education. I am not sure how far the national budget could be stretched to accommodate all responsibilities. I wish I had a clear answer to that, but what I know is that violent protests like burning libraries, disrupting classes, and destroying property is an attitude which cannot be tolerated. Continuous engagement between varying parties have proved to be the best method of reaching an amicable solution to whatever problems you might be dealing with. I understand the students' plight and their impatience, but violence can never be a solution,' concluded Kathrada.
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