Struggle stalwarts Ahmed Kathrada and Laloo Chiba have called on South Africans on the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, to renew the fight against racism. Their statements follow an increasing number of reports of racial and xenophobic incidents, and public debate around matters relating to race over the past few weeks.
Kathrada and Chiba, both in their mid-80s, were jailed alongside Mandela for 26 and 18 years respectively.
“As Mandela walked out of prison with the ‘Amandla’ salute, we knew that the values of non-racialism and democracy were triumphant over apartheid. It is however, disheartening and of great concern to me, that 25 years on, we still see blatant acts of racism being perpetrated. We have made significant progress since 1994, but racism still lurks under the surface,” said Kathrada.
“I read the newspapers daily, and I am perturbed at the reports of racism, especially at places of learning. Young people are the future of this country, and it worries me when they are being separated in classrooms based on race, or when one hears that race may have played a role in the recent Northern Cape school abuse case. One hopes that such incidents are isolated. We need to pay more attention to youth development so that young people can become agents of non-racialism,” he stated.
Kathrada added that as South Africa celebrates Mandela’s release, it is imperative that his ideals – one of which was non-racialism – be upheld.
“We can join the call by the ANC and others to remain vigilant when racism arises, and we can take the initiative to speak out against it. If necessary, we should hold demonstrations against it. Racism must be tackled head on,” he said.
Kathrada’s sentiments were echoed by Chiba, who said that Mandela’s release was the “apex” of the fight for democracy. “This in turn led to a negotiated settlement, democratic elections and the Constitution, which upholds the ideal of a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.”
Chiba said that he was “extremely disturbed to see that racial discrimination carries on in a big way. I never thought that evidence of racism would be so rife 20 years after democracy. It is absolutely essential that we carry on the struggle against racism”.
Like Kathrada, he emphasised that the key to a non-racial future lies with young people.
“We invite young people to join the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Youth Leadership Programme. Through this course, the essence of non-racialism is instilled in the youth,” he said.
Free Marwan Barghouthi
The struggle stalwarts also used the occasion of the anniversary of Mandela’s release to renew their call for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoner, Marwan Barghouthi.
“While we celebrate this historical event that changed the face of South Africa and the world, we are reminded of the fate of another symbol of freedom, Marwan Barghouthi. We are once again calling on Israel to release Marwan and all Palestinian political prisoners,” Kathrada said.
“The apartheid government signalled through the release of Mandela and anti-apartheid prisoners its readiness to engage in serious dialogue towards peace and reconciliation,” he added.
“History has taught us that releasing Mandela led to a negotiated settlement in South Africa, without bloodshed. Similarly, we are calling on Israel to release Marwan Barghouthi. This could well lead to a fair, negotiated settlement between Palestine and Israel,” Chiba said.
2015 marks the 13th consecutive year that Barghouthi, known as the ‘Palestinian Mandela’, has been imprisoned, with the total period he has spent in jail over time amounting to 20 years.
In October 2013, the South African struggle stalwarts were part of the launch of the international campaign for the freedom of Barghouthi and all Palestinian political prisoners from Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island. VOC