South African anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada dies aged 87

Kathrada's foundation announced that he died after being admitted to hospital with blood clotting in his brain earlier in March.

Ahmed Kathrada, a veteran anti-apartheid activist and contemporary of Nelson Mandela, has died.

Along with Nelson Mandela, Mr Kathrada was among eight African National Congress activists sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said in a statement that he will "be buried according to Muslim religious rights, details of which will be made publicly available in due course".

Ahmed was imprisoned 26 years and three months and he spent 18 of those years on the Robben Island.

Despite being eligible for state burial as one the country's foremost anti-apartheid icons, the foundation said Kathrada had requested a simple burial as per Islamic tradition. This entails the national flag being flown at half-mast at all government buildings from Tuesday until the evening of the official memorial service.

In July 1963, the police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb where Kathrada and other banned persons had been meeting secretly.

After the infamous Rivonia trial, Kathrada and scores of other leaders, including Mandela, were convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison with hard labor in the notorious Robben Island prison.

Ahmed Kathrada spent decades in jail with Nelson Mandela, then spent the first years of democracy helping to shape the country's government after the fall of apartheid.

Mr Kathrada supported the former South African president until 1999, but remained politically active.

Kathrada, often known as "Kathy" for short, was a South African political activist born in 1929 to a family that had emigrated from Lachpur, Gujarat, India.

In a statement released by the party, Kathrada's life was described as a lesson in humility, tolerance, resilience and a steadfast commitment to principles, even when taking a principled stance placed him at odds with his comrades.

Tributes poured in for Mr Kathrada, who was released from prison in October 1989 at the age of 60.

While in prison, Kathrada earned four university degrees.

Fellow Robben Island prisoner Laloo "Isu" Chiba said Kathrada was a figurehead to anti-apartheid colleagues.

I would [rather] say disappointment, and determination to speak out to put it right.

This was after the Constitutional Court found he failed to uphold the Constitution when he ignored the Public Protector's recommendation that he repay some of the public money used to upgrade his Nkandla home.

  • Leroy Wright