President Jacob Zuma has declared a Special Official Funeral for the late Rivonia Treason Trialist and stalwart of the liberation struggle for a free and democratic South Africa, Mr Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, who died at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning at the age of 87.
As announced by @PresidencyZA on Twitter, Zuma instructed that the National Flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country from today, 28 March until the evening of the official memorial service.
Saddened by the death of Uncle Kathy – as he was fondly called – the president also sent his deepest condolences to Kathrada’s wife Ms Barbara Hogan, his family, his political home and the African National Congress which Uncle Kathy served selflessly throughout his adult life.
Uncle Kathy’s partner, Ms Barbara Hogan, an anti-apartheid icon was South Africa’s former minister of Public Enterprises. She was sentenced to 10 years in jail for high treason against the apartheid government in 1982.
BuzzSouthAfrica learned that the bereaved family has requested a private funeral ceremony and the details will be announced by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
While Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the send-off of the much-loved stalwart within the government, detail of an official memorial service is expected to be announced in due course.
Earlier this month, uncle Kathy was admitted to the hospital for surgery related to blood clotting in his brain.
Hours before his demise – precisely on Monday, March 27 – the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation confirmed in a statement that the veteran had “experienced several post-operation complications, rendering his condition serious”.
The Foundation’s Director Neeshan Balton said: “Kathrada has contracted pneumonia, which has affected both his lungs. Despite appropriate medical care, his condition is deteriorating. He is currently comfortable.”
Activism Against White Minority Regime
At the very young age of 17, Kathrada started his activism against the white-minority apartheid regime. At the time, he was one of 2,000 “passive resisters” arrested in 1946 for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans.
In July 1963, he was arrested alongside other senior activists during a secret meeting. They were hunted down by the police on the Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb.
Robben Island Diary
Kathrada was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 along with former President Nelson Mandela, Dennis Goldberg, Govon Mbeki and Mr Walter Sisulu and spent 26 years and three months in prison. 18 years of which were spent in the maximum security section of Robben Island.
He met ANC leaders Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in the 1940s. He was released on October 15, 1989.
After apartheid ended, he served from 1994 and 1999 as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) government.
Criticism Against The Zuma-led Government
Uncle Kathy was not only an inspiration to South Africans but also to millions around different parts of the world.
He was loved for being outspoken, a newsmaker, and honest. He was a major part of many South African’s memories over decades of anti-apartheid struggle and had led a public active life until his shocking death.
Last year, he joined other ANC veterans in calling on Zuma to step down for dragging the name of the party through the mire and other scandalous allegations.
In an open letter addressed to Zuma after the Constitutional Court ruled against his Nkandla homestead upgrade, Kathrada asked:”I am not a political analyst, but I am now driven to ask: ‘Dear Comrade President, don’t you think your continued stay as President will only serve to deepen the crisis of confidence in the government of the country?
While in prison he obtained four university degrees: BA (in History and Criminology)‚ B Bibliography (in African Politics and Library Science)‚ BA Honours (History) and BA Honours (African Politics)
In 1992, the African National Congress bestowed its highest honour, Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe on Mr Kathrada for his selfless dedication to the struggle for a free democratic non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
He started his foundation 2008 and was the chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council until 2006. His published books include Letters from Robben Island (1999)‚ Memoirs (2004) and A Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrada’s Notebook from Robben Island (2005).
Condolences have continued to pour in to the departed hero’s family. South African celebrities, high-profile politicians and well-meaning individuals continue to describe uncle Kathy’s death as devastating and shocking.
Others shared snippets of Kathrada’s personality, whose full name was Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada.
Kathrada’s death now means only two of the eight Rivonia Trialists are still alive – Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg.