'Mr K' was a wise counsellor, stern critic, best friend

Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Ahmed Kathrada.

Pretoria - The Nelson Mandela Foundation has described the late Ahmed Kathrada, or ‘Mr K’ as he was affectionately known at the foundation, as “our wise counsellor, our stern critic, our best friend”.

The Mandela Foundation has expressed sadness on the passing of the struggle veteran this morning.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation confirmed that the 87-year-old passed away at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre on Tuesday morning.

Kathrada's health deteriorated on Monday after he was admitted to hospital for surgery related to blood clotting in the brain earlier this month. His condition worsened in the past 24 hours due to pneumonia, which developed after the operation.

According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada was a comrade, associate and close friend of Nelson Mandela through seven decades and he was a much-loved trustee of the foundation for many years. 

Kathrada played a pivotal role both in the establishment of the organisation in 1999 as Mandela’s post-presidential office and in its later growth as an NGO promoting social justice through dialogue and memory work. 

His biography is well-known. He was a member of the generation of South African leadership which made a post-apartheid conceivable. His commitment to core values was unshakeable, inspiring a lifetime of service and informing a rejection, right to the end, of the abuse of power in any form.

The Mandela Foundation said Kathrada was in so many ways the "memory of a movement". He worked with Mandela on Long Walk to Freedom at the outset (1975) and at the end (1994). 

He co-created the Robben Island Museum. He published many personal memories. He served long years on structures supporting national orders. 

He founded an organisation (the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation) committed to deepening non-racialism. 

“But we will remember him, fundamentally, as the embodiment of a promise for a liberatory future.  He worked for that future to the end. He walked the walk. He never wavered.

“We miss him already, and always will. We thank his beloved Barbara and everyone else who gave him the strength he needed always to go the extra mile,” the foundation said.

Kathrada was born on 21 August 1929 in rural Schweizer-Reneke in the North West and was introduced to politics as a young boy when he joined a non-racial youth club run by the Young Communist League.

At the tender age of 17, Kathrada participated in the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign, led by the South African Indian Congress. He was part of 2 000 resisters who were arrested and imprisoned for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans.

Kathrada, under the tutelage of Transvaal Indian Congress leader, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, later befriended emerging ANC leaders such as Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.

In 1951, Kathrada visited East Berlin to attend the youth festival jointly organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), and the International Union of Students (IUS). While there, he visited Poland, where the Auschwitz concentration camp left an indelible impression on him.

Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim religious rights. He will be laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 29 March. – SAnews.gov.za

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