South African anti-apartheid stalwart Kathrada dies

Cheryl Sanders
April 3, 2017

Nearly a year ago, Kathrada wrote an open letter to Zuma, calling on him to step down.

Kathrada died at 03.45 on Tuesday morning at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg.

Following news of the recent passing of ANC struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, reports have emerged that President Jacob Zuma could possibly be barred from attending his funeral.

Friends and strangers alike called Kathrada by the nickname Kathy, which was bestowed on him by his eighth-grade teacher, who was Afrikaans, a member of the white minority descended from Dutch colonists.

Born on August 21, 1929 in Transvaal, he distributed pamphlets and wrote political slogans on the wall at the age of 10.

Under apartheid, even prisoners were treated differently depending on their racial origin: White prisoners got the most privileges, followed by those of Indian origin, while black people got the least. At the age of 12, he joined the Young Communist League, because it was "part of the broad struggle against injustice and inequality, and for democracy and non-racialism".

Politicians past and present took to Twitter to salute Kathrada‚ including sports minister Fikile Mbalula and Jay Naidoo.

In an open letter, Kathrada criticized the president for a series of corruption scandals that have shaken South Africans and rocked investor confidence in the country.

He died in hospital in Johannesburg after a short illness following brain surgery.

The Kathrada foundation said he was survived by his wife, Barbara Hogan, also an ANC stalwart. It announced his death at 6 am local time (0400 GMT).

The President instructed that the national flag fly at half-mast throughout the country from Tuesday until the evening of the official memorial service.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Kathrada as "a man of remarkable gentleness, modesty and steadfastness", hailing him a moral leader of the anti-apartheid movement.

"May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory".

"He was a comrade, associate and close friend of Nelson Mandela's through seven decades", Ndebele said in a statement.

"Coming from the history of South African Indian Congress, towards African National Congress to Robben Island - he has been consistent", he said.

Ahmed Kathrada was one of the Rivonia Trialists who spent years on Robben Island with the likes of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Andrew Mlangeni during the apartheid years in South Africa.

In 1982, after spending 18 years on Robben Island, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, serving a total of 26 years and three months in jail.

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