Kathrada: Madiba made me feel tall

Ahmed Kathrada laments the loss of his 'elder brother'.

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada.

JOHANNESBURG - Anti-apartheid fighter Ahmed Kathrada says now that Nelson Mandela has died he doesn't know who he will turn to in future.

Mandela died at his Houghton home at around 8:50pm on Thursday. His health had deteriorated over the last few years and he was rarely seen in public.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's David O' Sullivan on Friday morning Kathrada said he turned to Mandela "as my elder brother" after Walter Sisulu, a father-figure in his life, died.

"Now that [Madiba's] gone I don't know who I can turn to."

The struggle stalwart spent many years with Mandela on Robben Island where they were jailed by the apartheid government after being found guilty during the Rivonia trial.

"We've gone through so much together… He was such an inspiration to us in prison because he behaved like us, like ordinary prisoners. He said there should be no preferential treatment, [stressing] he was a prisoner like us. Through all the hardships he was with us."

Kathrada said he received the news of the former ANC president's death while at a function on Thursday night.


Although Kathrada was younger than Mandela, he said the first president of a democratic South Africa treated him "as an equal".

Kathrada recounted how he would boast to his school peers that he was friends with a university student (Mandela).

"He made me feel tall, he made me feel equal to him. He used to ask me how is school and what I wanted to become. That was the Mandela I knew right through my life. He treated everyone equally."

Kathrada added that Madiba made his fellow prisoners feel more secure, even though he faced many personal trials and losses while behind bars.


Kathrada, who worked in Mandela's office in while serving in Parliament, said he continued to learn from the statesman after the dawn of democracy.

"All his time was spent trying to build one united nation; and that's where the emotions of forgiveness and reconciliation came in. Flowing from that was the absence of bitterness, the absence of revenge, the absence of hatred."

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