Ahmed Kathrada turns 85 and celebrates at Wits University

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BIRTHDAY BOY: Struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada alongside his wife Barbara Hogan enjoy the performances in the Great Hall last night. Photo: Luke Matthews

Struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, known to many as ‘Uncle Kathy’ was joined by his peers, South African politicians, school kids, Wits staff and students, as he celebrated his 85th birthday at the Wits Great Hall last night.

Wits SRC (Student Representative Council) and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation hosted the veteran’s milestone birthday celebrations which included special guests Judge Dikgang Moseneke, Deputy Vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe and struggle veteran Advocate George Bizos.

“There is great merit in turning 85 and I strongly recommend it,” Kathrada told the audience in his address. He went on to thank Wits for the recognition it gave him in 2012. “I was a student of this university for three whole months and the university didn’t forget me, they actually gave me a doctorate, a free doctorate,” he joked.

Judge Moseneke, the Chancellor of Wits, said Kathrada’s fight for freedom flowed from selflessness: “We enter the public terrain to server others and not ourselves. We must do more than say ‘Batho pele’.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ahmed Kathrada stood to receive his birthday cake and for the singing of "Happy birthday". Photo: Luke Matthews

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Professor Tawana Kupe, left, takes a photo of Ahmed Kathrada, middle, as he receives his birthday cake. 
Photo: Luke Matthews

SRC president Shafee Verachia thanked Kathrada “… for showing us what responsible citizenship is about and that good will always triumph over bad.”

Kathrada was presented with a number of gifts including an SRC blazer and a number 85 Bidvest Wits jersey.  He joked that he will be playing in this Saturday’s game against Orlando Pirates.

Kathrada, who spent 18 years in prison on Robben Island, was particular appreciative of the school children in attendance. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after the event, he said: “The nicest part of this day was the school children. What you miss most in jail is children so it was just the right way to start my birthday.”

A Wits group called The Scent and SAMA (South African Music Awards) winner Ifani also performed at last night celebrations.

 

No right to be gay in Uganda

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Justice Edwin Cameron meets and greets well-wishers at the launch of his book Justice this week.Photo: Luca Kotton.

by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph

Being gay or even supporting gay rights is now illegal  in Uganda and can lead to life imprisonment.

Less than a week ago, President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill into law and since then, the onslaught from both local and international communities alike has been significant.

The act “prohibits any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibits the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.”

First drafted in 2009, the bill originally proposed the death penalty, but was later amended to life imprisonment because of international pressure.

Having sex with someone of the same gender, marrying someone of the same gender and touching someone of the same gender with “intent” to engage in a sexual act will land you in prison for the rest of your life. Officiating a same-gender marriage, aiding or counselling an LGBTI individual, offering premises or supplies to an LGBTI individual and directing a company or NGO that supports LGBTI rights leads to prison time of five to seven years.

Despite the watered down version of the bill coming into law, several countries – including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US and the UK – have pulled financial aid from Uganda, one of the world’s poorest nations (as classified by the World Bank).

South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said “oppressors like (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni should not be allowed to flourish.”

Speaking at the launch of Justice Edwin Cameron’s book  Justice, on Thursday night, Moseneke added his voice to the condemnation of Uganda’s recently signed Bill. Cameron is one of South Africa’s most prominent gay rights activists and a colleague of Moseneke at the Constitutional Court.  [Read an extract from Cameron’s newest book here.]

No official condemnation of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act has yet been issued by the South African government.