Tributes have been pouring in as the nation reacts to the death of ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada.
Kathrada passed away peacefully after a short period of illness, following surgery to the brain.
Kathrada, who was 87, spent 26 years and 3 months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said this morning that he was deeply saddened at the passing away of Kathrada and that he embodied a profound sense of compassion, and an unwavering commitment to true justice.
“As leader at the forefront of the struggle for liberation, Kathrada relentlessly fought for the freedoms we all cherish today,” Maimane said.
The ANC’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that they salute his life and that he was “a man who put country and countrymen before self”.
“The African National Congress dips its revolutionary banner in mourning on the passing of Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Comrade Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, fondly known as Uncle Kathy. The title of Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe is the highest honour that can be bestowed by the African National Congress (ANC) and the people of South Africa on those who have made an outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the liberation struggle. With the passing of Comrade Kathy the nation has lost a titan, an outstanding leader and a great patriot – a man who stands apart for his service to the people of South Africa, and to the country,” Mantashe said.
The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) said that Kathrada’s death is a “catalyst” to motivate them to finish the work of liberating the people of this country.
“We will fight harder to ensure that we attain freedom and dignity for the people of this country, in our lifetime. On behalf of 3 hundred and fifty thousand metalworkers we extend our sincerest condolences to the family of our fallen hero, Ahmed Kathrada,” said acting spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi.
Chief Mandla Mandela, traditional leader and grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, spoke from Mvezo where he said that Kathrada had become one of the “foremost global voices for human rights and the fight against inequality, and was especially passionate about the Palestinian cause”.
“Addressing a conference in Palestine in 2013 he said: “I was in prison for 26 years; I know detention without trial; I know solitary confinement, I know house-arrest, I know what it feels like to be wrenched away from my mother and father at the tender age of eight to go 200 kilometers to school because the local white school would not admit me simply because I was an Indian,” Mandela said.
The Mvezo traditional council chief said that Uncle Kathy would be welcomed by his former comrades who have also passed on such as Walter Sisulu, Mandela, OR Tambo, Ismail Meer, JN Singh, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Helen Joseph, Amina Cachalia and others with the words :“Well done Kathy you have done us proud; our voices have been heard!”
Kathrada was prisoner number 46864 at Robben Island, a few cells away from Nelson Mandela who was prisoner number 46664.
Kathrada has been lauded for his humility and devotion to his people.