Unexpectedly, Ahmed Kathrada’s funeral became a rallying cry against President Jacob Zuma’s rule‚ with several senior leaders complaining of patronage and poor leadership.
“Phantsi‚ Zuma!” a small group of mourners shouted after Kgalema Motlanthe read Kathrada’s letter‚ which was loudly greeted with song and a standing ovation.
Kathrada died in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a Johannesburg hospital after weeks of illness. He had undergone surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain.
His death came amid heightened political tension in Zuma’s government‚ with renewed reports that a cabinet reshuffle is imminent. Finance minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to be the main casualty of such a move after repeated clashes between the presidency and Gordhan’s ministry.
In the latest twist‚ Zuma on Monday forced Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas to cancel overseas trips aimed at engaging the investment community. Gordhan was already in London at the time‚ while Jonas was expected to visit the US later in the week.
Zuma said earlier on Wednesday he would not attend the funeral or the special official memorial service announced by his office.