The Presidential Years

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How did Mandela see your job as parliamentary councillor?

Ahmed Kathrada - From my point of view it was just a title. Contrary to perceptions people have that this is a very senior position, in practice it was just a title. Madiba’s contact with me would be not a systematic thing, every now and then when something arises he would come and talk to me. But it wasn’t as if we had regular meetings and consultations, it was not like that. My position as parliamentary councillor was a payback thing, because you remember they had appointed me as minister, then came this thing of the Inkatha people, they had to make room. So then they thought they had to give me a position because I had already indicated I wasn’t interested and that’s when they created this Parliamentary Councillor thing. There was no such thing before.

What I remember, Kathy, is that whilst Madiba also tried to use you for things to do with Parliament, you were supposed to be the main person who did his letters, his correspondence, if there were letters from different heads of state and other people, he would want you to go through them and then draft the responses.

What happened is that the civil servants who were all from the apartheid days, came to me to suggest a draft reply to letters and so forth. I used to refer letters to ministers because they were in a better position to deal with them than we could. He also relied quite a bit on the whites from the previous order

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