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Ahmed Kathrada 'would be appalled' by DA's attempt to score cheap political points, says his foundation

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation accuses DA leader John Steenhuisen of seeking to link stalwart’s Indian ancestry to proposed employment equity legislation

DA leader John Steenhuisen. File photo.
DA leader John Steenhuisen. File photo.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

The DA’s attempt to invoke the late struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada in its fight against proposed employment equity legislation has backfired. 

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has released a scathing statement criticising the party for what it says was an elevation of the stalwart’s “Indianness” by the DA for scaremongering and political point-scoring. 

The DA says the proposed Employment Equity Amendment Act will lead to a loss of at least 600,000 jobs, mainly affecting white, coloured and Indian people.

The proposal seeks to amend the act to, among other things, provide for the minister to identify sectoral numerical targets to ensure the equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups.

“The minister may, after consulting the relevant sectors and with the advice of the commission, for the purpose of ensuring the equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups at all occupational levels in the workforce, by notice in the gazette set numerical targets for any national economic sector identified in terms of subsection.

“A notice issued in terms of subsection 2 may set different numerical targets for different occupational levels, subsectors or regions within a sector or on the basis of any other relevant factor,” reads part of the act.

DA leader John Steenhuisen invoked Kathrada’s name to tell residents in Chatsworth, Durban, how the stalwart would not agree with what he calls a racial quota act.

The foundation said Steenhuisen had mischievously sought to link the stalwart’s Indian ancestry and the role he played in the struggle for liberation to the proposed legislation.

It questioned where the DA’s newly found appreciation of Kathrada was when he died as none of its party leaders attended his 2017 funeral. The DA also failed to meet Kathrada after his release from prison (in 1989) to better understand his political values and life.

“Without this, one wonders how the DA can even attempt to claim to know what would be his responses to current issues,” the foundation said.

The foundation said it was evident the DA did not understand what Kathrada stood for and was disturbed by the narrative that he would have been “enthusiastic about its call for defiance of a law that will be approved by a democratic parliament — and that he would have done so because he was Indian”.

Kathrada would have been “appalled” by the DA’s attempts to elevate his “Indianness and struggle contribution in a crude vote-catching and fear-mongering exercise, as the DA has done”.

Kathrada would have urged all actions by individuals and political parties to be guided by a deep conviction to political principles, and not to short-term party-political gains advanced through performative politics
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

“Kathrada would have urged all actions by individuals and political parties to be guided by a deep conviction to political principles, and not to short-term party-political gains advanced through performative politics,” the foundation said.

The foundation has requested the DA, and any other political party, to shy away from using Kathrada’s name and those of other liberation heroes and heroines “to draw false historical narratives and conclusions from their lives”.

It would benefit the DA if it took time to educate itself about what Kathrada actually believed in, the foundation said.

Steenhuisen on Wednesday said the legislation stood in direct contrast with what the DA believed in. “Because it violates one of the key foundational principles of the DA, which is nonracialism — and that is also a key constitutional value enshrined in our constitution, which says South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity,” he said.

“But let me be very clear, the DA fundamentally supports advancement and opportunities for people in South Africa, particularly those who’ve been previously disadvantaged by the devastation of race-based policies. This is what underpins our economic justice policy and it is also a key factor in the new economic policy which we will be launching in a few weeks’ time.”

Steenhuisen said the ANC was using divisive tactics to campaign for next year’s election. “But race quotas do not address inequality because they mask the symptoms, and what we’re seeing here is the ANC desperately going into an election with the only thing that they have left at their disposal and that is their ability to divide South Africans by race.

“And let’s be very clear, these so-called targets are not targets, they are quotas and they are race quotas. There are significant financial penalties for businesses that do not comply, including up to 10% of their particular annual turnover.

“We believe that this is going to fundamentally constrain a number of things, including the ability of businesses to expand ... In an environment where we have an expanded unemployment rate of around 40% and the largest youth unemployment rate in the world, it’s going to make that unemployment crisis even higher.”


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