Veteran anti-apartheid leader Ahmed Kathrada dies at 87

South Africa mourns the loss of anti-apartheid leader Ahmed Kathrada who has died aged 87.

The veteran activist, affectionately known as Uncle Kathy, passed away peacefully in a Johannesburg hospital after a short period of illness, his foundation said.

President Jacob Zuma said that arrangements had been made for an official state funeral and that flags would fly at half-mast until then.

A life fighting racial injustice

Born to immigrant Indian parents in the town of Schweizer-Reneke in the North West Province, he became involved in politics at the age of 12, distributing leaflets for the Young Communist League of South Africa.

Following decades of activism, he was convicted of trying to overthrow the apartheid government 1964. He was among eight African National Congress activists to be sentenced to life imprisonment. Eighteen of those years were spent at the maximum security section of the notorious prison, Robben Island.

Alongside Nelson Mandela, he spent 26 years in prison. He was released in 1989 at the age of 60 and then joined Mandela in government.

After retirement he remained active on the political scene, and was one of the most senior ANC leaders to criticise President Jacob Zuma amid mounting corruption allegations.

Tributes

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

“May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory,” Tutu said in a statement.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation released a statement saying the sadness that they felt at losing ‘Mr K’ as they knew him, was ‘inexpressible’.

“We will remember him, fundamentally, as the embodiment of promise for a liberatory future. He worked for that future to the end. He walked the walk. He never wavered,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said.
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