Rest In Peace, Ahmed Kathrada

Rest In Peace, Ahmed Kathrada

The man who spent most of his life fighting for our freedom, and broke all our hearts at Nelson Mandela's funeral, has died.

Ahmed Katrhada

South Africa is a poorer place today after struggle stalwart and Rivonia trialist Ahmed Kathrada, popularly known as Uncle Kathy, passed away in a Johannesburg hospital at the age of 87.

Kathrada was admitted to hospital in March after he was dehydrated and was diagnosed with a blood clot in the brain.

One of the father figures of a free and democratic South Africa - Kathrada picked up the baton at an early age, joining up with the likes of Mandela and fellow ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu in his teens.

Kathrada says young people are brave and drawn into what seems to be an adventure.

In July 1963, police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, an arrest that led to the infamous 'Rivonia Trial', in which eight accused were sentenced to life imprisonment.

They included Mandela, Sisulu, Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni.

Kathrada says they were all relieved when sentencing was finally passed, as they expected to be handed the death penalty.

Kathrada spent 26 years and 3 months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.

He says during his time on Robben Island, it never crossed his mind that Nelson Mandela would one day be president.

While in prison Uncle Kathy obtained four university degrees.

Despite having many years taken away from him, that he could have spent with friends and family, Kathrada always tried to put things into perspective.

He says while the years on Robben Island were difficult, they were also aware that their comrades were dying in the streets during the struggle.

Kathrada says his release from prison was sudden, and he quickly had to adjust to life on the outside - including to all kinds of new-fangled technology like fax-machines. 

The release of political prisoners were a precursor to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 - a day Kathrada says he would never forget.

Kathrada often spoke of the loneliness he experienced after the deaths of his brothers-in-arms Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela.

He says when Walter Sisulu died he lost a father and when Mandela died he lost a brother.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has given life to Uncle Kathy's ideal of a true non-racial society.

Until his dying breath, Kathrada was the true embodiment of what it means to be a champion of the people, a fighter for those who cannot always speak for themselves.

We will never forget his contribution to our freedom, the fight he fought to make our country a better place for all who live in it.

Let is mourn, but also celebrate a life that gave so much to so many.

A revolutionary spirit that will never die, Uncle Kathy is finally able to meet up with Sisulu and Mandela in that great ANC branch in the sky.

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