JOHANNESBURG – Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela’s most trusted friends and close associates in his fight against Apartheid, died in Johannesburg, according to the Mandela Foundation on Tuesday.
Kathrada, lifetime comrade, associate, cellmate and close friend of Mandela, died at the age of 87 after suffering a post-brain surgery embolism.
Kathrada belonged to a generation of South African leaders who made a post-apartheid South Africa conceivable.
A member of the African National Congress (ANC) and a militant of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Kathrada was given a life sentence in 1964, along with Mandela and other future South African leaders, spending most of his 28 years imprisonment at the infamous Robben island maximum security prison for his activities against the apartheid regime.
In 1989, he was freed along with his prison mates after the white minority apartheid regime began to crumble and entered talks with the black majority to negotiate the road towards a multiracial democracy.
This advocate of human rights was elected to Parliament in 1994’s first democratic elections; he became Mandela’s advisor until they both retired from politics in 1999.
Kathrada was both a Muslim and a member of the South African Indian minority.
He remained actively involved in various political campaigns in support of Palestine and launched a foundation, bearing his name, supporting many social justice projects and fighting racism.
Kathrada was one of the country’s most respected members of South African public life and was affectionately known as “Uncle Kathy.”
South Africa’s incumbent president, Jacob Zuma, has ordered all official national flags be lowered to half-mast until his funeral.
Nobel Peace prize winner and anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu commended his “modesty” and “humility,” highlighting his “moral integrity” and deep commitment towards social justice.