STRUGGLE HERO EXHIBITION
South Africa is ‘a corroded society’, Barbara Hogan tells Kathrada anniversary event
Former minister Barbara Hogan told the Ahmed Kathrada exhibition opening at Constitution Hill on Sunday that the greed of those seeking power in South Africa was ‘surely one of the most corroding values that has infiltrated our society’.
Former minister and widow of liberation struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, Barbara Hogan, and South African Revenue Services Commissioner Edward Kieswetter have decried the corrosion that plagues South African society.
Hogan and Kieswetter were speaking at Constitution Hill during the opening of an exhibition depicting Kathrada’s colourful political life. The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation teamed up with Constitution Hill to honour the late struggle hero on the 93rd anniversary of his birth.
In reference to the corrosion plaguing society and some of the country’s political leaders, Hogan said ANC leader Tony Yengeni’s remark that he did not participate in the Struggle “to be poor” was most shocking:
“This new government had everything and virtually everybody behind it, personified in Madiba, and yet we have shifted to a hubris. We have shifted to a world that we are right and that everybody is wrong.”
Hogan expanded: “Along with this hubris comes entitlement. I am entitled. It is my time to eat. And that value that I have suffered, I have been at the receiving end of racism. I have been marginalised and excluded, so I will queue to be a councillor because it’s my time to eat. I will queue to get a tender because it’s my time to eat.”
“And the interlocutory of this power of hubris when you do not need to care about people’s experience on the ground or how you are being perceived or what is right or wrong, together with the sense of entitlement, is surely one of the most corroding values that has infiltrated our society,” Hogan said.
“We have become a society more divided and void of truth… characterised by greed, violence and corruption,” Hogan said.
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State Capture devastation
Kieswetter said he bore testimony to the devastation that took place in the years of State Capture. “For institutions, like SARS, the NPA and the Hawks and other departments, as well as critical SOEs, became personal fiefdoms used to serve a corrupt intent instead of serving the interests of all South Africans.”
“I can attest that the damage through State Capture is real and those in denial are either complicit or they are still fighting the quest to deal with corruption… to deal with the consequences of State Capture,’ said Kieswetter.
Various speakers reminded the gathering of the outstanding qualities of the late Struggle hero Kathrada, among them resilience, honesty, integrity, perseverance, trustworthiness and love.
They reminded the gathering of the social ills plaguing the country, such as inequality, and how Kathrada’s legacy could be used to turn the bleak situation around. They also implored the new generation to find a way of espousing the same values as Kathrada.
The gathering was also reminded of the values Kathrada stood by, including forging a just and equal society. Kathrada was also praised for his punctuality and cleanliness.
In honour of Kathrada, speakers also urged South Africans to take a stand against gender justice to effectively deal with the scourge of gender-based violence and the climate crisis.
In remembering Kathrada, Hogan cautioned young people about the current “dark, terrible times”. She said the corrosion which had beset society demanded that young people drew from Kathrada’s political wisdom.
“One of the things I liked about Kathy was that he never abused his position to enrich himself,” Hogan said, adding that this was despite his wide political connections. She said even in retirement, Kathrada remained an inspiration and showed no desire to hold company directorships.
Hogan also decried the implementation of Black Economic Empowerment — BEE — which she said had become a vehicle of entitlement and corruption.
“We created BEE and it became a monster… a vehicle of entitlement and it stalks our society in every single way and that is the corrosive value that hides a good cause,’ said Hogan.
Hogan said BEE was distorted by widespread tender corruption instead of creating an inclusive economy.
Hogan said Kathrada understood the human condition and that politics was more than just power and privilege — it spoke to the human condition. She said this is what enabled Kathrada to speak to South Africans across races.
As the country’s politics become more coalition-oriented, Hogan said, South Africans needed to think about how they would hold those in a coalition government to account.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said the opening of the exhibition had been in the works for about three years and showcased aspects of Kathrada’s colourful political life.
The foundation said Hogan’s participation had been desired not only because she had been Kathrada’s spouse, but also because she waged her own war on the unjust apartheid system.
The longevity of Kathrada’s political activism was also praised. His political activism remained with him until the last days of his life. His values remained the one aspect of Kathrada’s life that many of the speakers said set him apart from his political peers. DM