Who told JZ not to come?

CityPress - - Ahmed Kathrada (1929-2017) - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Nee­shan Bal­ton, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ahmed Kathrada Foun­da­tion, said he was un­aware of a de­ci­sion be­ing made to ask Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma not to go to Kathrada’s fu­neral. The strug­gle stal­wart’s niece, Zohra Kathrada-Aer­ing­ton, also said the fam­ily had noth­ing to do with Zuma’s ab­sence.

“I’m not aware of any mem­ber of the foun­da­tion who would have been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any­body in govern­ment,” Bal­ton said. Kathrada died at 4am on Tues­day. Ac­cord­ing to Mus­lim law, the fu­neral had to take place within 24 hours.

“So there was no fam­ily mem­ber who I think would have been in di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any­body in govern­ment. Peo­ple might have that sen­ti­ment, but I’m not sure who would have ex­pressed it,” Bal­ton said.

“From our side, there is no ill feel­ing to­wards the pres­i­dent. While Un­cle Kathy did call on him to re­sign, he had tremen­dous re­spect for the pres­i­dent.

“Where he dif­fered fun­da­men­tally was re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent’s vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion. He did not like the Nkandla idea – and it’s around those things that he thought it would be in the best of in­ter­est of the ANC and the coun­try for the pres­i­dent to re­sign.

“But he did so not with a de­gree of ill feel­ing. My sense is that the con­tents of the fu­neral would be some­thing that he would have sup­ported,” Bal­ton said.

Bal­ton said Zuma and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa were nei­ther in­vited to the fu­neral, nor was there a plan for them to speak at the event.

“I un­der­stand the sen­ti­ments of the pres­i­dent and I can ap­pre­ci­ate that it might have been in­ferred from what was go­ing on on so­cial me­dia and ev­ery­where else. I can re­spect any head of state who thinks that his pres­ence might not be wel­come some­where, and, when peo­ple are grieving, you don’t want to add to con­tro­versy. We cer­tainly did not in­vite any­body for­mally to the pro­ceed­ings,” he said.

Asked whether Zuma had con­firmed with the foun­da­tion if Kathrada had such wishes, Bal­ton said he did not think there was enough time for that to have hap­pened.

The main speak­ers, he said, were from the foun­da­tion to avoid “get­ting into any con­tro­versy”.

Only the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Com­mu­nist Party were in­vited to pay tributes, but the or­gan­i­sa­tions were not told who should speak on their be­half.

“We did not even tell the mem­bers of the foun­da­tion what they needed to say. All we said was do what­ever you think needs to be done that is in keep­ing with the char­ac­ter, val­ues and life of Ahmed Kathrada,” he said.

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