Kathrada: Madiba “easily relates to everyone”

Wishes for the better: The Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital wall showered with messages of good health and speedy recovery for former President Nelson Mandela. Pic: GCIS
Wishes for the better: The Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital wall showered with messages of good health and speedy recovery for former President Nelson Mandela. Pic: GCIS

Johannesburg – As messages of support keep pouring in for former President Nelson Mandela, struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada has shared fond memories of Madiba.

Speaking at the Alexander Forbes discussion forum in Sandton – where Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe interacted with businessmen – Kathrada, who also served time as a political prisoner during the apartheid regime, said Mandela, was a people’s person.

Kathrada said Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba, was someone who got along with just about anyone, irrespective of who they were.

The elderly statesman, 94, remains in a critical but stable condition after he was admitted to a Pretoria hospital with a recurring lung infection 20 days ago.

“There is so much that one can say about Madiba… Someone sent me a clip of Johnny Clegg performing a song that he composed when Madiba was in prison Asimbonanga (We did not see him) .

“That clip showed Madiba – when Johnny Clegg was singing the song – coming out to the stage to join the dancing and then appealed to the people to join the dancing. That was vintage Madiba. He easily relates to everybody, from the smallest child to just about who you can think of.”

Kathrada, a trustee at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and anti-apartheid activist, also said when Mandela and other political prisoners first set foot in jail, he told them that they were no longer leaders, but “ordinary people” that other struggle stalwarts – like O.R Tambo – would lead the ANC from exile.

He said prison officials often offered Mandela privileges that were afforded to non-black prisoners, but that Mandela would often turn them down and slave it out with fellow black inmates until such privileges were offered to other blacks. – SAnews.gov.za