SA to bid farewell to Uncle Kathy

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pretoria - Mourners from across the country are this morning making their way to Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg to bid farewell to the late struggle stalwart, Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, who passed away on Tuesday.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation announced that the funeral will commence at 10am this morning at Westpark Cemetery, situated on Beyers Naude Drive. The programme will include a political tribute session by the foundation. Former President of South Africa and board member of the Kathrada Foundation, Kgalema Motlanthe, will speak at the event.

Anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Sophie Williams-De Bruyn, a former Robben Island prisoner, and a family member will also address mourners.

The tributes will be followed by the ritual Muslim funeral prayer rites, which will commence at 11.30am at the cemetery. The service will be followed by the final burial rites.

The foundation said members of the public are welcome to attend the funeral ceremony.

President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Official Funeral for the late Rivonia Treason trialist. The President further instructed that the National Flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country from Tuesday until the evening of the official memorial service.

The life and times of a giant

An activist to the end, Kathrada has had an illustrious political career, having served between 1994 and 1999 as the parliamentary counsellor to late President Nelson Mandela.

He 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.

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

In 1952, Kathrada was in a group of 20, including Mandela and Sisulu, who were sentenced to nine months in prison with hard labour - suspended for two years - for organising the Defiance Campaign against six unjust apartheid laws. The campaign was jointly organised by the ANC and SA Indian Congress.

In 1954, he was placed under restrictions by apartheid security police and was arrested several times for breaking his banning orders. In 1956, he was among the 156 Congress activists and leaders charged with high treason. The trial continued for four years, after which all the accused were acquitted. Kathrada, Mandela and Sisulu were among the last 30 to be acquitted.

While they were on trial in 1960, the ANC and PAC were banned. In 1962, Kathrada was placed under house arrest. The following year, Kathrada broke his banning orders and went underground to continue his political and military work in the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

In July 1963, the police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb where Kathrada and other banned persons had been meeting secretly. This led to the famous Rivonia Trial in which eight accused were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour on Robben Island. His fellow prisoners included ANC leaders such as Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni.

Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. In 1982, Mandela, Sisulu, Kathrada, Mhlaba and Mlangeni were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town.

While in prison, he obtained four university degrees, namely BA (in History and Criminology), B Bibliography (in African Politics and Library Science), BA Honours (History) and BA Honours (African Politics).

Soon after his release on 15 October 1989, the ANC was unbanned. At its first legal conference in South Africa, Kathrada was elected onto its National Executive Committee. Until 1994, he headed the ANC’s Public Relations Department. At its conference in 1997, Kathrada declined nomination to the National Executive Committee.

In 1994, Kathrada was elected to Parliament and served as President Mandela's parliamentary counsellor. He was chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council from 1997 until his term expired in 2006.

In 2008, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was launched with the aim of deepening non-racialism. Kathrada was an active participant in the foundation’s work, which includes promoting constitutional ideals and human rights, youth leadership and development, challenging racism and preserving and promoting liberation history.

Kathrada is survived by his wife, Barbara Hogan, also an ANC stalwart and veteran, who once served as Minister of Public Enterprises. -

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