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Amina Cachalia to be laid to rest

Dignitaries gathered at struggle icon Amina Cachalia's home to pay their final respects.

Amina Cachalia shares a joke with Nelson Mandela during a lunch he hosted for the wives of apartheid and anti-apartheid leaders in Pretoria in 1995. Picture: AFP

PARKVIEW - Dignitaries, including former president Nelson Mandela's wife Graça Machel, on Thursday gathered at Amina Cachalia's Parkview home to pay their final respects.

The 82-year-old struggle veteran, who passed away in a Johannesburg hospital earlier on Thursday, will be laid to rest this evening.

Machel arrived shortly after former president Thabo Mbeki's wife, Zanele.

Also in attendance was Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, his wife Maria Ramos as well as former Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad.

Cachalia will be buried at Johannesburg’s West Park Cemetery.

TRIBUTES POUR IN

Prominent South Africans, activists, intellectuals and government officials have paid tribute to the late struggle icon.

Cachalia, a confidante of former president Nelson Mandela, has been described as a gracious woman who contributed greatly towards South Africa becoming an equal and free nation.

Head of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Verne Harris, said Cachalia shared a special bond with both Madiba and the centre.

“She supported our work (and) we've done a number of projects with her.”

ANC deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte also paid tribute to the fallen struggle icon.

Duarte said the long-time activist was “a great leader of women from the 1950s and onwards.”

She described Cachalia as an astute political thinker who was a very gentle and dignified person.

“She had a great passion for ensuring that the country would move forward [sic]."

In the early 1950s, Cachalia worked tirelessly to make the Defiance Campaign a success, and has always been at the frontline of women’s rights protests.

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada said Cachalia, along with fellow activist Helen Joseph, visited women across the country who had been banished from urban areas by the apartheid government.

He said the pair also ensured that the women were fed and clothed.

The University of the Witwatersrand hailed Cachalia as a "freedom fighter".

“We acknowledge the passing of Amina with great sadness for in her, we have lost not only a freedom fighter but more importantly, a human rights activist and a protector of the vulnerable,” it said in a statement.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Cachalia would be remembered for her “selflessness, steadfastness and commitment.”

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said she hoped South Africans would embody Cachalia’s spirit in their everyday lives.

“Amina was an inspiration to us all. May her life continue to inspire both women and men alike."

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