Ahmed Kathrada

One of the prime drivers for the Congress of Business and Economics to decide on an annual ‘Tribute to Our Heroes’ event since 2016 was comments made by the late veteran freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada, after whom the awards are now named, at the inaugural Tribute in 2013.
“Remember that these were not the only escapees,” Kathrada reminded the audience at the Birchwood Hotel as he shared details of many others besides the few who were being honoured that evening, including himself.

“Barbara Hogan was an attempted escapee after she and others subdued a nurse. But her Rhodesian doctor brought her down in a rugby tackle,” Kathrada said, as he recalled how in 1979 three others managed to escape after Tim Jenkins crafted a key to their cell.

“In 1988, Valli Moosa and Murphy Morobe took refuge in an embassy in Durban after escaping,” Kathrada said as he called for many other political prisoners to also be honoured, such as Braam Fischer, who was sentenced to life and died a prisoner through cancer of the brain.
Kathrada said too much attention was given to those like him and Nelson Mandela who were part of the Rivonia Trial, while there were many other trials where others too had endured much torture and long prison sentences. Among those he cited were his inseparable friend Laloo ‘lsu’ Chiba’, who passed on soon after Kathrada. He said Chiba had never spoken once during his 18 years on Robben Island with him about the severe torture he had suffered at the hands of security police.

“I heard about this for the first time after we convinced him to testify at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We tend to remember the Rivonia Trial but forget that there were other equally important trials that even our organisations do not honour.

“We must also honour those who did not live to see our freedom like Dr Neil Agget, Dr David Webster, and Rick Turner, who were assassinated by apartheid forces; as well as others who were killed by other means, such as Ruth Slovo, who was killed by a parcel bomb while in exile in Mozambique; and Babla Saloojee and Ahmed Timol, who were thrown to their deaths from the top floors of the notorious John Vorster Square,” Kathrada said.

Many of the others mentioned by Kathrada at the inaugural ‘Tribute to Our Heroes’ have since been honoured as we proudly embark on our sixth effort in making the CBE Ahmed Kathrada Excellence in Leadership Awards to remember their efforts in bringing us to a situation where we can in fact, freely undertake such a project which might have landed us in the same position of torture and imprisonment in years past.