Rapturous applause as Motlanthe repeats Kathrada’s call for Zuma to step down

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe received thunderous applause and shouts of “yes!” after he quoted excerpts from Ahmed Kathrada’s letter to President Jacob Zuma asking him to resign at the stalwart’s funeral in West Park Cemetery on Wednesday.

While members of the audience stood up in applause as Motlanthe quoted Kathrada’s open letter to Zuma, written in 2016, some members of the ANC’s senior ranks, including Gwede Mantashe, remained seated.

The parts of Kathrada’s letter which Motlanthe quoted read:

“I have always maintained a position of not speaking out publicly about any differences I may harbour against my leaders and my organisation‚ the ANC. Today I have decided to break with that tradition.”

It continued: “And bluntly‚ if not arrogantly‚ in the face of such persistently widespread criticism‚ condemnation and demand‚ is it asking too much to express the hope that you will choose the correct way that is gaining momentum‚ to consider stepping down?”

It was after Motlanthe read that final line that the audience inside the tent, standing behind Kathrada’s hearse, rose up in thunderous celebration.

Throughout the funeral, leaders in the ANC including David Makhura and Gwede Mantashe, have appealed to struggle veterans for guidance.

“I want to appeal to all veterans, they have a responsibility of guiding us and all leaders of tomorrow,” Mantashe said as he addressed the audience.

An elder at the funeral immediately responded, shouting from the crowd: “Let’s meet tomorrow”. The audience met his response with laughter, while Mantashe continued on with his tribute to Kathrada.

Zuma did not attend Kathrada’s funeral. On Tuesday, the day Kathrada died at 87 following complications from brain surgery, Kathrada family members told the Mail & Guardian that Zuma would not be welcome at the funeral.

Speaking at the funeral, Motlanthe, a close friend of Kathrada, noted that the stalwart’s letter had still received no response a year after it was written.

“On a day like this we should not mince words. We should say it like it is.” 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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