1 July 2011
The late Kader Asmal, South African liberation struggle veteran, human rights activist, academic and politician, was “a great African patriot who devoted his life to the fight against human oppression,” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said at a memorial service on Thursday.
“The agony that enveloped our country immediately after Professor Kader Asmal’s demise told of a grief-stricken nation,” Motlanthe said during a moving memorial service at City Hall in Cape Town.
He said that Asmal had embraced a vision “that said a better human society based on human rights, equality, respect and celebration of our common humanity is possible and indeed desirable.”
The Deputy President described the late African National Congress (ANC) veteran as an “an erudite professor” and an “organic intellectual in the truest sense of the word.”
“His outlook was grounded in concrete, daily realities of the people he led,” he said.
To Asmal’s wife, Louise, Motlanthe said: “We know you have not only lost a husband but also, you have lost a companion, a fried and a comrade.”
During the ceremony, many people ranging from family, friends and comrades to politicians and academics gave testimonies on how they knew Asmal.
Many described him as a “brilliant professor” and a “maverick of all sorts”, as well as a man with a sense of humour who also loved things like whisky and cricket.
Poems and songs were performed in his honour as speaker after speaker quoted some of the poems which the late Cabinet minister loved.
His Irish close friend of 47 years, Garry Kilgallen, said that he had met Asmal in 1964 in Ireland when he formed the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.
He said that Asmal’s work in both Ireland and South Africa had left “living footprints on the sands of time.”
He said that back home, people loved Asmal as he was loved in this country. He described him as a great source of advice as well as a great human rights activist, patriot and “a fighter for liberty.”
Louise Asmal thanked everyone for the support she had received during this time of pain and urged the government to carry on with the work of uplifting the poor.
Her speech received a standing ovation. Grandchildren Zoe and Oisin said that they would remember their grandpa as a man who was involved in their lives.
They said he used to take them to school, walk them to the shops as well as mentoring them to be well cultured beings.