Indian-origin South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada dies today

Carla Harmon
April 3, 2017

Ahmed "Uncle Kathy" Kathrada was hospitalised in Johannesburg earlier this month after surgery to relieve blood clotting in the brain.

Kathrada - who was Chairperson of the Transvaal Youth Congress at the time - was elected leader of the large multi-racial South African delegation.

"We are deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing on of our dear friend and founding trustee, Ahmed Kathrada", read a statement by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mr Kathrada, affectionately known as Kathy, spent more than 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on the notorious Robben Island, where Mr Mandela was also jailed.

According to the Kathrada Foundation, the renowned politician died from cerebral complications and was due to be buried on Wednesday in Johannesburg.

"Our struggle in South Africa had one great advantage, and that was the worldwide support of civil society and many governments", Kathrada said. Kathrada was a staunch critic of President Jacob Zuma, who said the activist would be honoured with a state funeral and that flags at government offices would fly at half-mast until then.

While in prison, he obtained four university degrees - Bachelor's degrees in History/Criminology and Bibliography, Honours degrees in History and African Politics from the University of South Africa.

He adds that Kathrada was a humble person, a thinker and a great friend to Nelson Mandela.

"His life is a lesson in humility, tolerance, resilience and steadfast commitment to principle, even when taking a principled stance would place him at odds with his comrades", said the ANC in a statement.

Fellow Robben Island prisoner Laloo "Isu" Chiba said Kathrada was a moral figurehead of the anti-apartheid movement. Police arrested him again in July 1963 during a raid on a secret activist reunion at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. "We must say, in the name of Ahmed Kathrada all these problems must be addressed".

At the famous Rivonia trial, eight of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour on Robben Island.

Following Kathrada's release, he served as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first ANC government.

The family has requested a private funeral ceremony and the details will be announced by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

In 2016, Kathrada wrote an open letter calling on Zuma to resign as a series of scandals, from using taxpayers money to upgrade his rural Nkandla home to summarily firing former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in 2015, rocked Africa's most industrialised economy.

He is survived by his wife Barbara Hogan, also an ANC stalwart and veteran.

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