Kathrada Foundation celebrates Uncle Kathy's birthday at Joburg school

The Kathrada Foundation continued the late anti-apartheid activist’s tradition of celebrating his birthday at schools by commemorating the life and lessons of Ahmed Kathrada at the Johannesburg Muslim School (JMS) on Tuesday.

Kathrada, who was born on August 21, 1929 to Mohamed Kathrada and his wife Hawa, previously attended the school.

"Uncle Kathy was a student here and he decided to join the passive resistance in his matric year. He left the school and, by December, he spent his first time in prison," Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton told learners.

Balton also shared that Kathrada had spent all of his birthdays at schools, which is a tradition the foundation will continue.

Struggle activists, such as advocate George Bizos and politician Essop Pahad, were among those to address pupils at the school in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

Several learners from JMS have also served on the Kathrada Foundation. Grade 11 pupil Amara Mohamad recalled meeting Kathrada for the first time.

"He took me by the hand and told me to be passionate and steadfast in everything I am doing, as that is root to success. He then hugged me, which was one of the best hugs I have ever had. He smelt amazing," she said.

Pahad touched on Kathrada’s vision of a non-racial society and encouraged learners to call out racism, even in their homes.

"Sometimes I get a feeling that there are people within our community who unfortunately still harbour racist views. I appeal to you children, in your own homes never let someone utter racism. When they utter racist phrases, take them on – that’s what Kathy would have done," he said.

Bizos, who will turn 90 this year, spoke fondly of the late activist. He went on to call out small groups in South Africa, who he said were "out of order".

"There is tendency recently which may affect you and may affect me, because there is a very small group of South African people who say Nelson Mandela betrayed them when he said in the Constitution that South Africa belongs to everyone who lives in it”.

School principal Suleiman Moosa thanked the foundation for their time and dedication.

"Thank you for choosing and honouring Johannesburg Muslim School," he concluded.