Anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada dies

Ahmed Kathrada, a lifelong comrade of Nelson Mandela and one of the iconic figures of South Africa's freedom struggle, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 87.

On Monday, the Foundation said his condition deteriorated rapidly and was "serious" with pneumonia affecting both lungs.

The Kathrada Foundation said he will be buried according to Muslim religious rights on Wednesday.

Rivonia trialist and struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada has died. "Kathy" was an inspiration to millions in different parts of the world", Balton added.

Zuma has ordered flags throughout the country to fly at half-mast and said a "special official funeral" would be organized.

"With our brothers and sisters in South Africa, I mourn the loss of a liberator, and an exemplary leader", he said.

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

He fought alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others over a number of decades and spent 26 years in prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

Kathrada's academic qualifications, some of which he obtained while imprisoned, include a BA (History and Criminology), a B. Bibliography (Library Science and African Politics) and two BA (Honours) degrees from the University of South Africa (Unisa) in African Politics and History. The Nelson Mandela Foundation released a statement saying the sadness that they felt at losing "Mr K" as they knew him, was "inexpressible".

Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, affectionately known as Kathy, was born in Schweizer-Reneke, a small town in the North West on 21 August 1929.

His activism against the white-minority apartheid regime started at the age of 17, when he was one of 2,000 "passive resisters" arrested in 1946 for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans.

He was arrested on the outskirts of Johannesburg in July 1963 when the police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in the suburb or Rivonia, where he was meeting with others "banned" by the apartheid government. This led to the famous Rivonia Trial in which eight accused were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour on Robben Island.

Freeman did not heed Kathrada's call.

In a heartfelt tribute to Kathrada, who died in Johannesburg in the early hours of Tuesday, Tutu wrote: "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".

  • Leroy Wright