Thursday, August 2, 2012

A reflection on the 11th of July, 2012: 49th anniversary of the arrest of the Rivonia Trialists: who are the voices that are silenced?

On the 11th of July, 1963 Ahmed Kathrada together with 9 of his close confidants and comrades were arrested by the police of the Apartheid Government. After a raid by security police at Lilliesleaf farm in July 1963, the police arrested many prominent leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) and uMkhonto weSizwe (MK). Amongst them were, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Rusty Bernstein, Dennis Goldberg, James Kantor, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Bob Hepple. i Uncle Kathy and his conscious crew were charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the South African government. At the conclusion of the Rivonia trial in the Pretoria Supreme Court, Justice Quartus de Wet sentenced eight of the accused to life imprisonment. Among the accused were Nelson Mandela, the central figure in the trial, along with Dennis Goldberg, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi and Raymond Mhlaba.ii The 11th of July, 2012 marks the 49th anniversary of that arrest, personal and communal trials and hardships that were ensured by our honourable uncle Kathy and his equally honourable comrades. These leaders’ lives, have been a whirlwind of activism, advocacy, and pursuit of justice as they counted the cost, and made the sacrifice in solidarity with the majority of our marginalized South Africans. Uncle Kathy however, in his humble and honest way always reminds us that his struggle is equal and parallel to the liberation struggle of all our beloved people in South Africa, and associated global comrades who have stood in solidarity and in critical consciousness for the rights of the marginalized in South Africa. Making the stand in solidarity for the marginalized has been a struggle continued throughout the Apartheid Regime, and is continued for the rights of those of our beloved people who even today, bear the brunt of marginalization within our young South African democracy. Forty nine years following the Liliesleaf Farm arrest, nineteen years of life outside prison, and only eighteen years into our democracy uncle Kathy continues to press on in his hope, belief and dream for a non racial, just and democratic society. John Robbie ,702 talk radio host interviewed Mr. Ahmed Kathrada together with his fellow Rivonia trialist Dennis Goldbergiii , their reflections in conversation as comrades, friends and activists for human rights shined through as they spoke of their experiences during a very stressful and torturous time in South Africa. In October, 2010 I had the amazing opportunity to come into conversation with Neeshan Balton the current CEO of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF). Our conversation turned into an opportunity for me to serve AKF in a consulting capacity as director of Youth services. My mandate was to conceptualize the inaugural youth festival of the foundation and to deliver three non racialism dialogues for youth. During this time I was able to meet uncle Kathy, as well as work closely with him in conversation during our non racialism dialogues. Uncle Kathy became the keynote speaker, as I formulated questions to draw out the understandings and wisdom of Mr Kathrada concerning non racialism. One specific part of Uncle Kathy’s reflective, and personal sharing approach really struck me deeply; it has to do with the absence of children, and his longing to hear the voices of children. Over the months since my direct work with Uncle Kathy and AKF, I find myself reflecting on the voices that are not present, or possibly the voices that are silenced in my life, my family, and my community. I have wondered about my role as a father and whether I encourage the voices of my three beautiful children to be proclaimed with strength and assertiveness. I have had to reflect on my role as a husband and whether I am cognizant of the voice of my wife- her wisdom and insights. I have had to consider my role as a youth mentor, and whether I am hindering the voices of the generation of young people that I am called to serve. In every facet, and arena of my life there are places and spaces where I can do more by taking time to listen and take active participation in listening. I can do more to consider the voices that are not present, and consider the voices that are required for the wholeness of my humanity. Uncle Kathy in a more recent correspondence concerning the absence of the voices of children states, “I try to make up for the deprivation in jail. You may recall; in jail I literally saw at close quarters, and held a child for the first time after 20 years! Yes 20 years. I had reached a state where I wanted to hear even a child's cry”iv. Drawing from the deep consideration of our honourable leader I acknowledge and declare that my humanity is more whole when the voices and even the cry of children, youth, elders , my wife, my children, friends, family and beloved community are part, parcel, and proclaimed in my everyday life so I can be the whole person I ought to be! Forty nine years later post the Lieliesleaf Farm arrest and post the Rivonia Trial, the following questions must be considered:  Who are the voices that are silenced?  Are people present but have no voice?  When will the voices and cry of the marginalized be acknowledged and granted reparation?  Whose voice is not at the table?  Whose voice has been excluded?  Who is the person or the people that I need to hear from for my humanity to be made whole?  Who is the voice or are the voices that are silent? i ii iii iv Sat 2012/07/07 10:10 PM, correspondence

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