Foundation named after Indian origin South African freedom fighter

September 1st, 2008 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Sep 1 (IANS) A foundation has been set up in the name of Indian origin South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada to promote an understanding of the struggle against racism and colonialism, and will feature a special section honouring Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.Messages of goodwill from All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi and former South African president Nelson Mandela were noted at Saturday’s sod-turning ceremony of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation at Lenasia - the sprawling Indian township created south of here during the apartheid era for South African Indians.

Kathrada, who was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2005, had been incarcerated with Mandela on Robben Island for many years and, by Mandela’s admission, was one of his closest confidantes both during the struggle and after South Africa attained freedom in 1994.

Explaining that he had resisted calls for a foundation bearing his name to be set up for many years now, Kathrada said he relented after realising that many young South Africans today were not familiar with the struggle of earlier generations, which needed to be recorded for posterity.

“The foundation’s commitment to educating future generations about our shared history is an important one,” Mandela said in his message.

“It expresses his belief, one which I share, that there remains much work to do in order to secure and extend our freedoms. It is indeed a long walk,” he added.

Sonia Gandhi wrote: “I have always admired your courage and your lifelong devotion to freedom and justice.”

She added that she could not put down his book, which she said “vividly and movingly” brought to life the struggle for freedom in South Africa.

The foundation will not only be a repository for Kathrada’s own prolific writings, but also organise seminars, lectures, debates and discussions on issues which promote a non-racial and non-sexist democracy.

Administered by a volunteer board of leading politicians, academics and community figures, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will be built on land adjacent to the Trade Route Mall shopping centre in Lenasia on land donated by the owners of the Mall, Sayed Mia and Ismail Valli.

An exhibition on Kathrada’s life and times is currently running at the Trade Route Mall.

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