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South Africa loses anti-apartheid icon, Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada, a South African struggle stalwart has passed on. Kathrada was among the eight accused, who were sentenced to life imprisonment during the Rivonia Trial between 1963-1964. He served 26 years in prison alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. A man of dignity, and virtue, Kathrada’s death creates a huge vacuum in South Africa’s highly polarised political sphere. He will be greatly missed.



Ahmed Kathrada has passed on. The news came this morning from Donald Gordon Hospital, Johannesburg. Kathrada who died at the age of 87 was among those that spent many years in prison for acts of sabotage against the then apartheid government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, and spent 18 of those years in Robben island alongside Nelson Mandela.

In a press statement, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said the African National Congress (ANC) veteran passed away peacefully after a short period of illness, following surgery to the brain. In the press statement, the Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton, confirmed that the anti-apartheid struggle veteran “breathed his last today.”

Balton said, “This is great loss to the ANC, the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole. Internationally, he was staunch in his support for the Palestinian struggle. ‘Kathy’ was an inspiration to millions in different parts of the world.”

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The press statement also quoted the Chairperson of Kathrada Foundation, Derek Hanekom who was overcome with emotions. He said he has lost a “revolutionary mentor and dear friend.”

ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada and former Minister Barbara Hogan sign the registry book at the former South African President Nelson Mandela’s house in Houghton, Johannesburg. 06/12/2013 Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA

The Chairperson further added that, “Comrade Kathy was a gentle, humane and humble soul. He was a determined revolutionary who gave his entire life to the liberation struggle in our country.”

Kathrada faced various trials during the apartheid regime, the Defiance Campaign Trial of 1952, the Treason Trial 1956-1961, the 1963-1964 Rivonia Trial where he was sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. He was released in 1989.

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Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim religious rites, the press statement noted.

Laloo ‘Isu’ Chiba (86), a fellow Robben Island prisoner said that the death of his comrade left a deep vacuum in his life.


Chiba said, “I have worked with Kathy for over sixty years. He has been my strength in prison, my guide in political life and my pillar of strength in the most difficult moments of my life. Now he is gone.”

Kathrada served between 1994 and 1999 as the parliamentary counsellor to late President Nelson Mandela. His service to the nation continued even till last year, where he continued speaking truth to power and writing a letter to President Jacob Zuma, asking him to resign following several corruption scandals in Zuma’s government.

Kathrada had a list of honorary doctorate degrees from various top ranking universities in the world.

Social media has been awash with tributes to the struggle starlwart.