Struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada dies at 87

The Kathrada Foundation confirmed his death on Tuesday morning.

FILE: Former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada sat down for a candid one-on-one interview with journalist Melanie Verwoerd. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, fondly known as ‘Uncle Kathy’, has passed away.

The Kathrada Foundation confirmed that the 87-year-old passed away at the Donald Gordon Hospital on Tuesday morning.

Kathrada's health deteriorated on Monday after he was admitted to hospital for surgery related to blood clotting in the brain earlier this month.

His condition worsened in the past 24 hours due to pneumonia which developed after the operation.

Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim religious rights, details of which will be made publicly available in due course.

Kathrada was born in the North West town of Schweizer-Reneke in 1929.

He began his political career at the tender age of 17, leading to numerous incidents of incarceration before and after he joined the African National Congress (ANC).

Alongside seven others, which includes former President Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, Kathrada stood trial after he was arrested in a police raid on a meeting at the Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia.

The trial, more popularly known as "The Rivonia Trial", ended in a sentence of life imprisonment and hard labour. Kathrada spent over 26 years on Robben Island.

WATCH: EWN looks back at Ahmed Kathrada's life & his significance in the struggle for democracy.


In a tumultuous political environment, the veteran weighed in on the growing concern around the current ANC leadership – more specifically the calls for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma after the Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla in 2016.

Kathrada penned a letter to Zuma asking him to submit to the will of the people, adding that his resignation would help the country out of a crisis.

At the time the former political prisoner said he had not initially spoken out about Nkandla, although he thought it wrong to have spent public money for any president's private comfort.

Through his foundation, Kathrada also called for an investigation into allegations of the Gupta family’s undue influence on the appointment of cabinet ministers.

This as former ANC Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor came forward, saying the Guptas offered her a ministerial post which she had rejected and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas confirmed he'd been offered the position of finance minister.

The struggle stalwart lamented greatly on the status of the movement which has been plagued with infighting and leadership squabbles.

The ANC’s poor performance at the 2016 local government elections has been largely attributed to allegations of corruption levelled against members, including the man at the helm, and power struggles within the party.


In 1994 Ahmed Kathrada was appointed Member of Parliament after South Africa’s first democratic elections and also served as parliamentary counsellor in the office of his late comrade and friend, President Nelson Mandela.

WATCH: Ahmed Kathrada: I miss my 'brother' Nelson Mandela and 'father' Walter Sisulu

In the late 90s Mandela handed Kathrada the Presidential Award of the Order for Meritorious Service Class 1 in recognition of his selfless service to the country.

Kathrada described his oration at the late president’s funeral in 2013 as one of the most difficult speeches he has ever had to deliver – second to the one he delivered at the funeral of the man he describes as his father, Walter Sisulu.