Maverick Citizen


In remembrance of Ahmed Kathrada, civil society and political parties insist on free and fair elections

In remembrance of Ahmed Kathrada, civil society and political parties insist on free and fair elections
Defend Our Democracy’s national committee member Rev Moss Ntlha admonished several political parties for threatening violence and undermining the IEC in the build-up to the elections. (Photo: Yunus Chamda)

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation commemorated the seventh anniversary of Rivonia Trialist Ahmed Kathrada’s death, where representatives of several political parties pledged to ensure free and fair elections in 2024.

The 2024 national and provincial elections are set to be among the most contested in South Africa’s young democracy. The campaigning season has already been marred by threats of unrest, intimidation and an undermining of the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC’s) ability to conduct the elections effectively.

As such, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation used the seventh anniversary of the struggle veteran’s death for representatives from the ANC, IFP, ActionSA, Rise Mzansi and Bosa to pledge to ensure free and fair elections when millions of South Africans head to the polls on 29 May.

kathrada elections

Leaders from the ANC, ActionSA, IFP, Rise Mzansi, Bosa and civil society organisations joined the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the struggle veteran’s death and recommit to a free and fair election. (Photo: Yunus Chamda)

The pledges were supported by civil society organisations including Defend Our Democracy, Cosatu and the South African Hindu Maha Sabha.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

The political party and civil society representatives, as well as members of the public, gathered at the Westpark Cemetery in Randburg on Thursday 28 March to pay tribute to Kathrada.

“The people of this country are withdrawing from participating in democratic processes because all we see is politicians fighting for power,” said the foundation’s youth activism manager Obakeng Kgatshe.

“Is it a fight for who will have access to the next big tender or a genuine urge to serve? Again, we don’t know.

“But surely Uncle Kathy and many others would want us to work towards a political landscape defined by accountability, integrity and a steadfast commitment to the wellbeing of all citizens.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Reflections on the life of Ahmed Kathrada, a titan of SA democracy and equality

Civil society denounces poor discipline

Defend Our Democracy’s national committee member Rev Moss Ntlha reiterated Kgatshe’s sentiments that South Africans were losing confidence in the nation’s politicians and expressed concern about behaviour by political parties that contravened the Electoral Code of Conduct.

Ntlha said that while the nation had managed to pick up the pieces after the 2021 July riots, the threat of violence and unrest was once again knocking on South Africa’s door.

“As we stand on the cusp of what will be the most contested election since the dawn of democracy, we are already starting to hear some disturbing murmurs. Who is it that, even before the elections have kicked off, is threatening the IEC?  

kathrada elections

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton speaks as leaders of political parties, civil society and members of the public lay flowers on Ahmed Kathrada’s grave. (Photo: Yunus Chamda)

“Who is it that is threatening chaos if they do not receive a two-thirds majority? South Africa has had free and fair elections carried out by the IEC since 1994. We must ensure that it stays that way,” Ntlha said.

Ntlha said that while elections were meant to be fiercely contested, the competitive nature did not mean that political parties were given free rein to act against the law, adding that the true test of political leadership would be shown through the extent to which political parties and politicians put the country first.

Ahmed Kathrada, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

The late anti-apartheid activist established the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in 2008. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

Taking a swipe at various parties, including the ANC, DA and MK Party, Ntlha said: “Putting the country first means not undermining the IEC or discrediting the elections and electoral processes without reliable evidence. It means not writing letters to other governments asking them to intervene in our country. And it means taking any genuine concerns about the election to the appropriate structures to investigate them.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Jacob Zuma not allowed to stand for election on 29 May – IEC

Cosatu deputy secretary-general Solly Phetoe called on all parties and independent candidates to abide by the Electoral Act, adding that the IEC, the electoral court, law enforcement agencies and the NPA had to act against anyone who incited violence or made threats during this election period. 

“With all our challenges, we cannot afford to undermine the IEC. We all have a role to play, including ordinary citizens. We need to all play our role in supporting the IEC in ensuring a free and peaceful election campaign,” Phetoe said.

Political parties commit to free and fair elections

Every party present at Kathrada’s commemoration not only paid tribute to the late Rivonia Trialist but also vowed that they would do everything in their power to ensure that the elections remained free and fair.

ActionSA national spokesperson Lerato Ngobeni said that while the elections were set to be highly competitive, competition was a good thing as it forced politicians to work harder and to think of better ways to organise society.

Ngobeni said that Kathrada dedicated his life to creating a country where all citizens could enjoy constitutional rights and freedoms.

She said the struggle icon understood that the cornerstone of any democracy lay in the ability of its citizens to freely choose their leaders through fair and transparent elections.

“Free and fair elections are not merely a ritual. They are the lifeblood of our democracy and the mechanism through which the people’s voices are heard, and their will is expressed. But safeguarding the execution of free and fair elections requires more than just casting ballots. It requires vigilance, transparency and a commitment to upholding the principles of democracy at every turn,” Ngobeni said.

IFP MP Zandile Majozi said that as the nation approaches the elections, it is imperative that Kathrada’s core values and mission are remembered. 

Majozi said that Kathrada’s principles should guide political parties’ work and help them ensure that elections were conducted in the spirit of peace, lawfulness and harmony.

“This is especially true for young people who have a particular responsibility to help shape the future of our democracy. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and let others make decisions that will affect us all,” Majozi said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Civil society calls on citizens to protect SA’s democracy by becoming election observers

While Kathrada is no longer here to offer words of wisdom to political parties as they head to the polls, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Kgatshe said politicians need not look further than the veteran’s numerous interviews, writings and speeches in search of guidance.

Looking back to a speech Kathrada gave when he received his honorary doctorate from Wits University, Kgatshe said, “Taking from these words, what Uncle Kathy would have said here today is: post elections, we need to understand the responsibilities that come with leading. So when you win the elections, and the people of this country implore you to govern, remember the responsibilities that come with that authority.

“To parties that might not make it into government, consider how you can use your skills and expertise to contribute towards building a better South Africa beyond the elections.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.