Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada, or as he commonly known – Kathy, is a former political prisoner, politician and anti-apartheid activist.
His anti apartheid activism led to his imprisonment on Robben Island.
After he was released in 1990, he served as a Member of Parliament, representing the African National Congress.

Ahmed Kathrada was also a noted close friend to South African icon – Nelson Mandela. Their friendship spanned and decades and they considered themselves brothers.
They were both sentenced to life imprisonment at the infamous Rivonia Trial with several other anti-apartheid activists including Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba and Govan Mbeki.

The two had known each other since the forties due to Kathy’s activism with the African National Congress, saying they met at a friend’s flat in downtown Johannesburg.

Ahmed Kathrada’s speech at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was the most notable due to the close nature of their friendship.

After their release in 1990, Nelson Mandela became the first post-apartheid president of South Africa in 1994.
At Mandela’s behest, Ahmed Kathrada accepted a position as an advisor to the president after he declined the offer of Cabinet minister.

Now Ahmed Kathrada spends his time mentoring politically minded youths


Ahmed Kathrada was born on the 21st of August, 1929 in Schweizer-Reneke in the Western Transvaal in South Africa.

Kathy, who is a Sunni Muslim, is currently eight seven years old.

He is also an alumnus of University of South Africa.

His parents were Indian Muslim immigrants to South Africa. He is the fourth of six children.

He is currently married to Barbara Hogan – South Africa’s former Minister of Health and former Minister of Public Enterprises.

Barbara Hogan was the first white woman in South Africa to be found guilty of high treason; she was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result.
She met her husband, Ahmed Kathrada, soon after her release.

Because of the nature of things at the time, Kathrada couldn’t gain admission to the European high schools or the African high schools. He then had to move to Johannesburg to attend school.

Ahmed Kathrada became politically active as early as twelve years old when he joined the Young Communist League of South Africa.

He became influenced by the likes of IC Meers, JN Singh, Moulvi & Yusuf Cachalia and Dr Yusuf Dadoo – leaders of Transvaal Indian congress.


After graduating from Johannesburg Indian High, he began to work for the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council at the age of seventeen.

They were working in opposition to the “Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act” (which is also known as the Ghetto act).

The ghetto act was seeking to limit the political representation of Indians as well as limit the locations where Indians could trade, own land and live.

Kathy, alongside two thousand others, was imprisoned because of their participation in the campaign. This was his first imprisonment.

After his release, he was later elected as the Secretary General of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC).

Ahmed went on to join the University of Witwatersrand.
In 1951, while there, he was sent to Berlin as a representative of TIYC for the3rd World Festival of Youth and Students World Youth Festival.

He also attended an International Union of Students congress in Poland while he was still in Europe.
He then worked for nine months at the World Federation of Democratic Youth headquarters in Budapest.

Due to the increased alliances between the Indian Congress and African Congress to combat apartheid, Kathy became very close to African National Congress leaders like Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela.

On the 11th of July, 1963 – Ahmed Kathrada was arrested the headquarters of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) in Rivonia.
Even though he was not a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he was still charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government by violent means at the world famous Rivonia trial.
In June 1964, Ahmed Kathrada was one of those sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

For the next eighteen years, he was at the Robben Island Maximum Security Prison where (through the University of South Africa) he completed his Bachelor’s degree in History/Criminology, Bachelor’s degree in Bibliography and an Honours degrees in History and African Politics.
The prisoners were not permitted to acquire postgraduate degrees.

On the 15 of October 1989, Ahmed Kathrada was released from prison with the other Rivonia inmates.

And the rest, they say, is history.

In 1992, he went to Mecca on the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 2004, he ranked 46th on the Top 100 Great South Africans list.