Mbeki: Kathrada’s death a painful loss to SA

Thabo Mbeki says the country has lost one of the loyal giants of the struggle. He added Kathrada's death should not hinder the vital discussion between ANC veterans & leaders on ways to fix problems.

FILE: Former President Thabo Mbeki. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - An emotional former president Thabo Mbeki has paid tribute to the late Ahmed Kathrada, saying his death is a major and painful loss to South Africa.

Mbeki says the country has lost one of the loyal giants of the struggle.

He also says Kathrada never gave up on the African National Congress (ANC) despite its leadership troubles.

“Kathy, for all of these years that he’s been in the struggle, he’s been very loyal to the struggle, its objectives and outcomes. The fact that he would stay in the ANC despite being very critical of the leadership and things that have gone wrong, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

The former president says Kathrada’s death should not hinder the vital discussion between ANC veterans and leaders on ways to fix the party’s current problems.

Mbeki says Kathrada would have wanted the process to continue and ultimately succeed.

“I must say that he was quite fearless in terms of his determination to confirm what was wrong in the ANC.”

He was also asked about the speculation around the future of Finance Minister Privan Gordan.

“I really don’t want to speculate about it and I think we should wait and see what the government does.”

Mbeki has confirmed he will attend Kathrada’s funeral on Thursday.

At the same time, Public Service and Administration Minister Ngaoko Ramathlodi says Kathrada was an example to politicians and citizens about how to live their lives.

He’s praised the former Robben Island prisoner, saying he was part of a generation that gave themselves selflessly to the struggle, without expecting anything in return.

Ramathlodi says Kathrada epitomised the kind of South Africa they wanted to create.

“Coming from the Indian background and origin, throwing himself into the struggle with African people, he epitomises what we would want to leave for our kids.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)