Tributes pour in for ‘giant of the struggle’ Ahmed Kathrada

Former archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe have expressed their condolences following the death of struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada at 87.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation confirmed that Kathrada died on Tuesday morning after experiencing complications after a brain surgery. Tributes have poured in since the announcement.

Former archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote that him and his wife, Leah Tutu, have extended their condolences o Kathrada’s family and loved ones.

“Leah & I extend our deepest condolences to all who loved & were loved by #AhmedKathrada. God bless you all,” Tutu said on Twitter.

Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe have also spoken on the loss of Kathrada. In a statement, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation said that Kathrada was committed to the principles he had learnt in the struggle against apartheid right up until his death.

“We are deeply encouraged that Comrade Kathy remained committed to principle to the end. As we remember a life so well lived, we cannot but reflect on the valuable counsel Comrade Kathy including and in particular the importance of promoting the understanding that leaders exist to serve the people rather than to cultivate their personal interests,” the Thabo Mbeki Foundation said.

Kgalema Motlanthe spoke on Radio 702 on Monday morning shortly after Kathrada’s death was announced. Like Kathrada, Motlanthe was also imprisoned in Robben Island during the anti-apartheid struggle. He described Kathrada as a “giant” in South Africa.

“It’s sad that we lose such a giant of the struggle for liberation in South Africa, a morally forthright person who always expressed his honest view on any matter on the discussion,” Motlanthe said.

Kathrada often described former president Nelson Mandela as his brother. He was a founding trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who says it is mourning the loss of a dear friend.

“The sadness felt by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and everyone associated with it at the passing of Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada is inexpressible. He was a comrade, associate and close friend of Nelson Mandela’s through seven decades. And he was a much-loved trustee of the Foundation’s for many years,” the foundation said.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane also expressed his sadness at Kathrada’s passing, remembering the times he had met with the struggle stalwart.

“I fondly recall the many times I engaged with Uncle Kathy – most notably the conversation we had when he was bestowed with the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg. He told me of the years on Robben Island where he – along with the likes of Mandela, Sisulu and Tambo – never heard or saw the presence of children. He shared with me that for him freedom meant hearing the voices of children, indicating his sincere compassion, as well as his commitment to the future of our beautiful country.” 

The Economic Freedom Fighters, in their tribute to Kathrada, described him as “selfless”.

“As a country, we must all learn from the selflessness of Uncle Kathy, always prioritising the marginalised and ensuring that their voices are heard and respected,” the EFF said.

Kathrada’s funeral will be held in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning.

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