South African anti-apartheid leader Ahmed Kathrada dies, 87

Posted March 29, 2017

ANC stalwart and struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada's portrait during his prayer service at Liliesleaf Farm on March 21, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

One of the last of Nelson Mandela's close friends and associates, Ahmed Kathrada, has died at the age of 87.

"Kathy was an inspiration to millions in different parts of the world", Neeshan Balton, the chief executive of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said in a statement.

"This is great loss to the African National Congress (ANC), the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole".

At the tender age of 17, Kathrada participated in the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign led by the South African Indian Congress.

While still a teenager, he met Mandela, who was then a law student in Johannesburg.

Nobel Peace Prize victor Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Kathrada helped inspire the world's confidence in South Africa's long battle against white-minority rule.

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation paid tribute to Kathrada for his contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

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Referred to endearingly as "uncle" or "comrade Kathy" by his colleagues and supporters, Kathrada was among those jailed alongside Mandela in the 1964 Rivonia trial. "My personal contact goes back to 1985 when I was detained in solitary and at Pollsmoor prison and he slipped passed my cell, said hello to be me and asked me to be strong on my way to the hospital and the next day he sent me a poem". It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve.

"The second moment that stood out for me was when we all expected death and the judge said life", Kathrada added.

Later in life, Kathrada would recall his friend Mandela's "abundant reserves" of love, patience and tolerance during their long years in prison on Robben Island. After the elections of 1994 - the first truly democratic, all-race elections in South African history, in which Mandela was elected president - he served as Mandela's parliamentary advisor.

He is survived by his wife Barbara Hogan, a former political prisoner and former Minister of Health. In 1960, while the trial was still going on, South Africa's apartheid government banned the ANC.

"Our liberation struggle has many newfound "admirers" - some who often colluded with the apartheid regime", he observed. Find us on Facebook too!

Freeman did not heed Kathrada's call. "He shared with me that for him freedom meant hearing the voices of children‚ indicating his honest compassion‚ as well as his commitment to the future of our lovely country‚" said Maimane. "In its reborn form it is however worse than its predecessor".

Kathrada was born in 1929 to a scholarly Muslim family and became involved in political activism at the age of 11.