South Africa


South Africa is ‘a corroded society’, Barbara Hogan tells Kathrada anniversary event

South Africa is ‘a corroded society’, Barbara Hogan tells Kathrada anniversary event
Former Cabinet minister Barbara Hogan. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

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.


A view of the exhibition of the life of Struggle hero Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

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:

ahmed kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

“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.”

kathrada exhibition

A the exhibition of the life of Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

“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.” 

kathrada zuma letter

Replicas of letters written by Ahmed Kathrada, including his famed letter to former president Zuma. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

kathrada exhibition constiution hill

Delani Majola from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation during the installation at Constitution Hill of the exhibition of the life of Struggle hero Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada (21 August 1929-28 March 2017). (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

kathrada installation

Delani Majola from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation during the installation of an exhibition of the life of Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

“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.

kathrada badges

A selection of Kathrada’s badge collection that forms part of an exhibition of his life that opened on Sunday, 21 August 2022 at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

kathrada cell

A replica of the cell Ahmed Kathrada was imprisoned in on Robben Island forms part of the exhibition at Contitution Hill in Johannesburg. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

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.

A bracelet engraved with ‘Ahmed Kathrada 1964’ with a letter from The Rev Suzanne Peterson explaining its significance forms part of an exhibition of the Struggle hero’s life that opened on Sunday, 21 August 2022 at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. (Photo: Alet Pretorius)

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. 

BEE corruption

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 exhibition

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


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  • Malcolm McManus says:

    I am sure both Hogan and Kathrada didn’t join the movement to be poor. These words of wisdom come far too late. Kathrada and Hogan should have seen this ANC beast for what it was decades ago.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Ms Hogan, why didn’t you say this 25 years ago? It’s too late now and you share the responsibility for the kind of government we have. Now that the corruption cannot be ignored, ANC members are popping up sounding virtuous and surprised. It seems so phony. Do something, don’t talk.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Agreed, They must have seen the writing on the wall decades ago. The ANC were corrupt before they came to power. Its public knowledge.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      You, and Malcolm, are being unfair to both Barbara Hogan and Ahmed Kathrada. There are many people inside the ANC who did not join the ANC to make money and that were not influenced by Nkrumaism (which is the basis of the corruption in the ANC). The BEE could theoretically have been used morally correctly – and the reason that it was not, is not only to be blamed on the ANC, but also on many businesses who then reacted by appointing African “managers” without really allowing them the influence of managers. Too many businesses did not respect the valid need for diversity, which was a problem before 1994 – and the ANC probably also not, because too many role players inside it also abused the policy for their own personal purposes. Not that I supported the idea then or do now; but these people all operated within the context of an ANC that was dominant and they had to live with its’ policies. What I am saying is that some of them tried hard to get it to work for the purposes that it was supposed to be for, and probably prevented SA from really becoming like Zimbabwe, because the moderating influence of these many thousands of ANC leaders, some of which I had to do with, stemmed the tide of decay and often helped the ANC doing many things that were constructive too.

      • virginia crawford says:

        The corruption around the arms deal was perpetrated by ANC officials and then they were protected – that was the time to speak! Crimes of ommision do count.

  • Johan Buys says:

    ANC heavyweights are disavowing that party at a rate last seen when grootkop nationalists claimed never to have supported apartheid. FW would be very impressed at the speed of reversal but they have a ways to go to match his going from Security committee to Nobel peace price in a few short years.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      FW never was part of the security establishment. In fact I have reason to believe that he never knew about any of the murder gangs that were sustained by state money while the NP was in government. It is clear that even Pik Botha, who was a senior minister, did not know about the evil purposes that the money in the covert military accounts were used for. But these ministers must have known enough to realise that the National Security System (that was in operation until 1989) was an alternative to the democratic process; it could not have been to difficult to see. That was why De Klerk, after he was officially elected as State President by the voters in 1989, immediately started to dismantle it; he disbanded the National Security Committee only three days after the election. It was basically the first action he took after the election.

  • Paul Savage says:

    I think Ms Hogan makes some very good points, and her comments are valuable in that she, an insider, is calling out the ANC for being corrupt. Hogan was deeply engaged in the struggle, and was a loyal ANC member. Accordingly, give credit where credit is due. For example, her comments on BEE being a vehicle for corruption and tender fraud isn’t a comment you hear every day from the ANC. Likewise, her comments on the culture of “entitlement” displayed by the ANC ruling class are spot on. Remember, Barbara Hogan was fired by Zuma shortly after he came to office, and later on called on the people of South Africa to rise up against the corruption in the ANC. She made those comments back in 2015. So, in other words, she has consistently denounced the corruption in the ANC, not just since the Zondo commission presented its report.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Apartheid and the struggle are long gone and after almost 3 decades no longer a topic worthy of gossip at high society events and cocktail parties. The direction of the wind is changing, and she needs to lean with the prevailing wind so she falls onto the right side of the new fence. With Activists, the topic of their activism is less important than the actual involvement in activism itself. Its largely to do with ones own ego and using populism to achieve those egotistical goals. Flavor of the moment.

  • Nos Feratu says:

    If she feels this way why is Hogan still a member?

  • Ion Williams says:

    Another Melanie Verwoerd… the problem now want to distance itself from the problem.

  • Elaine Clarke says:

    When I pointed out the corruption endemic in SA in the 80s we were vilified. Before the ANC came into power I was a student in London and was excluded by ANC members. All the venality of the ANC was obvious to all who wanted to see so everything said above is meaningless and far too late now our country has been stripped bare by crooks parading as politicians

  • Teresa K says:

    Just to be clear – it is the ANC that has corroded South African society – every single aspect of our lives has been screwed in some way by a rotten, corrupt, filthy bunch of ANC thugs. And it was allowed to happen and even promoted by every single member who actively participated – from its most senior leadership to its minions, and equally as vile, those that stood back and turned a blind eye to all that they knew was going on, but pretended was not happening for the sake of the inglorius movement. Nothing sickens me more than the ANC. Nothing.

    • Mary Burton says:

      Only those who do not know, or choose to forget, Barbara Hogan’s history of courage, integrity and outspokenness can accuse her of being silent on corruption and mismanagement. Staying in the party while speaking truth to power can never have been comfortable, but much braver than standing on the sidelines where she would not have been heard. We need more people like her.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      It may be true that the ANC in government is corrupt – but so was the NP government. You don’t have a clue HOW corrupt it was and how many billions of rands flowed from the fiscus of the NP government to the pockets of affluent people that were connected to the NP and Broederbond. I am not even mentioning what was going on inside the homeland governments – you should remember that the homelands were mostly funded by the South African National Party government taxpayers and all those immeasurable billions of rands were for all practical purposes going down a “bottomless hole”, much of it ending up back in the bank accounts of NP connected people living in upmarket houses in Pretoria or Johannesburg without having achieved anything that it was supposed to do. I have a nasty feeling that much of the corruption that the ANC made itself guilty of, they actually learnt from the NP during the government of national unity from 1994 -1996.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      We should keep in mind that, after Mbeki was re-called in 2008, Barbara Hogan was one of the people that worked to lessen the damage done by Mbeki’s aids denial beliefs. But when the corruption under Zuma came to light, Hogan was one of the ministers fired by Zuma because she opposed what was going on; was she not one of the ministers who officially requested Zuma to resign?

  • Shamim Hargovan says:

    Hi Bheki I think you misheard Ms Hogan. She did not say we will “queue” to win a tender and “queue” to be a councilor she said “kill”, because that is what has been happening. That is the sad reality we are currently living with.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    I think a number of the comments are being harsh on Barbara Hogan. It must have taken a lot of guts as a white woman to follow one’s conscience and joining the ANC in the belief that the party had the wellbeing of all South Africans at heart. It must have been heartbreaking for her to see her trust in the ANC betrayed and that those that she thought would be liberated are now probably worse off than they were in their bantustans.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    Regarding Hogan’s comment about South Africans having to think about how to hold those in coalition governments to account, part of that holding the coalition partners to account must be on the side of whether they contribute to greater unity in SA, or are they continuing to divide our country. In other words, we as voters must get the message through that the role of coalition partners can not just be about promoting themselves and/or their ideology – it MUST be about putting SA and all its’ people first; and part of that will necessarily be to keep the coalition intact (although that will be conditional on whether it is good for SA’s people, and of course also on whether the coalition agreements are being respected by the other parties).

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