Embattled Gordhan honoured with standing ovation at Kathrada funeral

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan received a standing ovation from mourners at the funeral of South African liberation hero, Ahmed Kathrada, while tripartite alliance leaders and former head of state Kgalema Motlanthe bemoaned the state of the ANC.

Kathrada died in Johannesburg this week at the age of 87 and was buried at the Westpark cemetery in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Dissatisfaction with the behavior of the ANC’s top leaders and warnings that the governing party may lose power dominated Kathrada’s funeral. A letter from the former Robben Island political prisoner calling on Zuma to step down was met with thunderous applause.

Gordhan, who had earlier stood up alongside health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to applaud Kathrada’s call for president Jacob Zuma to step down, was brought to tears when he was honoured.

The finance minister was asked to stand as the executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada foundation Neshaan Balton paid tribute to him.

“Irrespective of whether you are a minister or not in days or weeks to come, you remain true to the values and principles that Ahmed Kathrada would be proud of,” Balton said, to loud applause from former president Kgalema Motlanthe and health minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

The finance minister battled to hold back his tears.

Earlier, the ANC’s top leaders had received a tongue lashing from the general secretaries of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali called on leaders and members of the alliance to remember Kathrada’s remarks about being popular.

“Leaders are not the organization, we must separate them. Leaders will come and go but the organization will remain. No matter how popular you may be, never for a moment [think] you are bigger than organsiation,” Ntshalintshali recalled.

The SACP’s Blade Nzimande was direct in his criticism of government and alliance leaders:

“Comrade Kathy was very active in the co-operation between the ANC and the Indian congress. He leaves us when his wisdom is needed even more in our organisation. At a time when parasitic patronage networks are today seeking to capture our movement. As SACP, in memory of comrade Kathy, we say no to those intentions,” Nzimande proclaimed.

Former president Motlanthe’s description of the current state of leadership in the ANC and the country was even more dire:

“Comrade Kathrada took exception to the current culture of feeding frenzy, moral corruption, society depravity, political dissolution, the broad sleaze enveloping the human mind that would put to shame even the vilest political orders known to human history,’ he said.

Earlier Gauteng premier David Makhura had called on the ANC to respect the views of its veterans. In what could have been a veiled swipe against ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, Makhura said he felt angered when veterans are insulted.

In his short address, Mantashe explained that veterans should be appreciated but should raise their concerns within the ANC, not through public platforms or through the media.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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