Veteran South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada has died at the age of 87. He passed away peacefully in a Johannesburg hospital after a short period of illness, following surgery to the brain.
Kathrada, along with President Nelson Mandela was among eight African National Congress activists sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. They were convicted of trying to topple the white minority government.
He is due to be buried on Wednesday at a private ceremony, but President Jacob Zuma has said that flags should fly at half-mast in his honour and a public memorial service will also be held.
Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada was a South African politician and former political prisoner, honourable man and anti-apartheid activist. Kathrada's involvement in the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Congress (ANC) led him to his long-term imprisonment following the Rivonia Trial, in which he was held at Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison. Following his release in 1990, he was elected to serve as a member of parliament, representing the ANC.
He has authored a book, No Bread for Mandela- Memoirs of Ahmed Kathrada, Prisoner No. 468/64.
The death of Ahmed Kathrada emphasises that a golden generation of anti-apartheid heroes has nearly gone. Along with the likes of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, he was part of a group untainted by corruption, acting as a moral compass for the nation.
His generation literally gave up most of their adult lives to fight to liberate black people from the yoke of white minority rule. He stayed relevant to the struggle of the downtrodden till the end.
He was critical of the current administration, asking President Zuma to resign following a damning court judgement against the president.
His significance in the anti-apartheid struggle was also to deradicalize it. He proved that the fight was not just left for black Africans to wage on their own, and that is how I will remember him.
The legacy left by likes of Kathrada and Nelson Mandela is a demonstration of how Nations’ embittered by conflicts can reconcile themselves and build a “rainbow” country. What was common to them was that their life was devoted to the service of the Nation and we should follow the same.