Nelson Mandela Foundation

14 November, 2011 – Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada were today honoured by the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) for their role in South Africa’s armed struggle.

The ceremony, hosted by the MKMVA, was held at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation as part of their celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the armed wing of the African National Congress.

Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of sabotage attacks.

“Today we are free, today we are able to speak as we wish,” said Kebby Maphatsoe, Chairperson of the MKMVA, and it was thanks to people of the calibre of the MK pioneers like Mr Mandela and Mr Kathrada.

Mr Mandela as the first Commander-in-Chief of MK and Mr Kathrada were jailed for life in the Rivonia Trial on 12 June 1964. The others convicted with them have already been similarly honoured. They are Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Denis Goldberg.

In his acceptance speech Ahmed Kathrada dedicated his award to those who did not survive. “We are very very grateful for the honour (but) I think it is appropriate that I dedicate this award to the many many comrades who are not here, who didn’t survive.”

Mr Kathrada mentioned Vuyisile Mini who was hanged for refusing to testify against Wilton Mkwayi, Joe Gqabi who was his “neighbour” on Robben Island and who was later assassinated in Zimbabwe, Chris Hani, MK Commander-in-Chief who was assassinated on 10 April 1993 and the other “comrades who paid the supreme sacrifice”.

Accepting the award on behalf of her grandfather, Ndileka Mandela said he often regales her with stories about his military training in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1962. It was one of his “proudest” moments, she said.

While her grandfather was honoured he, like Mr Kathrada, would not want to be singled out, she said. She named a range of MK cadres, men like Solomon Mahlangu, Laloo Chiba, Ashley Kriel, Simon Mogoerane, Mac Maharaj, Jerry Masololi, Marcus Motaung and Michael Lucas. And women such as Nokuthula Simelane, Jennifer Schreiner, Thandi Modise, Barbara Hogan, Farida Khan, Veliswa Mhlauli and Marion Sparg. Her grandfather would wish to salute them for their role as well as the countless unnamed people in South Africa and abroad who assisted them.

She quoted an essay he wrote on Robben Island in 1976 in which he said: “An armed struggle is not a question of simply acquiring a gun and shooting. The people should be drawn in and for every man in the front line there should be ten others to help in the fight.”

In her vote of thanks MKMVA Secretary General Ayanda Dlodlo said that for her generation of 1980s MK veterans, “the young lions” as they were called by the late Oliver Tambo, it was important “to celebrate the pioneering founders of this glorious people’s army”.

The MKMVA’s 50th anniversary celebrations of Umkhonto we Sizwe will continue until 16 December 2012.

Please click on the images below to view a larger display


Ahmed Kathrada, Barbara Hogan, Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo


Sparks Motseki, Ndileka Mandela


Ahmed Kathrada (looking at a young version of himself)


Ndileka Mandela


Ahmed Kathrada (murals of young Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela)


Painting of Nelson Mandela in military uniform