South Africa has lost one of its heroes, anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada who died at age 87 on Tuesday.
The human rights supporter and patriot died days after undergoing surgery to remove blood clot in his brain.
Ahmed Kathrada was one of the eight men including Nelson Mandela found guilty during the iconic Rivonia Trial in Pretoria in 1963 and sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island for treason.
The then 34 years old Kathrada spent the next 18 years with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ray Mhlaba, Dennis Goldberg and Elias Motsoaledi in the isolation section, known as B Section, of the Maximum Security Prison.
In 1982, he was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Cape Town to join the others who had moved there a few months ahead and was later released in 1989 as a hero at the age of 60.
Ahmed Kathrada has served as a Member of Parliament between 1994 and 1999. He has several awards including four Honorary Doctorates. Kathrada was also awarded while in prison with the Isitwalandwe Award, the highest accolade of the ANC.
South African President Jacob Zuma has sent his condolences to Kathrada’s wife, former minister of public enterprises Barbara Hogan and Kathrada’s family.
Zuma declared a Special Official Funeral and instructed that the National Flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country until the evening of the official memorial service for “Kathy”, as he is affectionately called.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said in a statement that he will “be buried according to Muslim religious rights, details of which will be made publicly available in due course.”
Below is a tribute from South African social rights activist retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
When the gates of apartheid’s political prisons swung open in 1989/1990 the quality of the human beings who emerged was an extraordinary blessing for all South Africans.
These were people of the highest integrity and moral fibre who, through their humility and humanity, inspired our collective self-worth – and the world’s confidence in us.
Ahmed Kathrada was one of those leaders. A man of remarkable gentleness, modesty – and steadfastness – he once wrote to the president to argue that he did not deem himself important enough to be awarded a high honour.
The struggle denied Ahmed Kathrada the opportunity to have children of his own; he was first imprisoned at the age of 17. But many South Africans looked up to him as a favourite grandparent.
Leah and I extend our deepest condolences to all who loved and were loved by Ahmed Kathrada. God bless you all.
May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory. May he rejoice in many heavenly cups of hot chocolate with his old friends and comrades, Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi and Mahlaba, among them.
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