JOHANNESBURG, March 28 – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has hailed anti-apartheid struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada as a selfless man who fought for justice and non-racialism to the end.
When the apartheid regime bowed to international pressure and released the country’s political prisoners between 1989 and 1990, Kathrada was one of them, a group of people who were an extraordinary blessing to South Africa, said Tutu.
“These were the people of the highest integrity and moral fibre who through their humility and humanity, inspired our collective self-worth and the world’s self-confidence in us.
“Ahmed Kathrada was one of those leaders. A man of remarkable gentleness, modesty and steadfastness. He once wrote to the President to argue that he did not deem himself important enough to be awarded a high order [Order of Isithwalandwe].”
Kathrada, 87, died early Tuesday at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said Kathrada passed away “peacefully” after a short period of illness, following brain surgery. He had been in hospital since March 4 for surgery related to blood clotting on the brain.
Tutu said Kathrada would join other heroes such as former president Nelson Mandela and fellow African National Congress (ANC) stalwart Walter Sisulu.
“May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory. May he rejoice in many heavenly cups of hot chocolate with his old friends and comrades Mandela, Sisulu, [Govan] Mbeki, [Elias] Motsoaledi and [Raymond] Mhlaba.”
He added that many South Africans looked upon Kathrada, fondly known as “Uncle Kathy”, as their father and grandfather.
“The struggle denied Ahmed Kathrada the opportunity to have his own children, he was first imprisoned at the age of 17…but many looked upon him as their favourite grandparent. Leah and I extend our deepest condolences to all who loved and were loved by Ahmed Kathrada, God bless you all,” said Tutu.
Kathrada would be be buried in Johannesburg on Wednesday in accordance with Muslim religious rights.
– African News Agency (ANA)