South African President Jacob Zuma will not be attending the funeral ceremony of Ahmed Kathrada, the anti-apartheid activist who served 26 years in prison along with Nelson Mandela and passed away yesterday.
Zuma will not be attending the funeral in “compliance with the wishes of the (Kathrada) family”. The 87-year-old had been critical of a corruption scandal involving Zuma last year and had called for his resignation.
Kathrada was one of the six children from a family of Gujarati Bohras who had migrated to South Africa. He was born in Schweizer-Reneke in 1929, in a farming community, and to a shopkeeper. As a teenager, he had dropped out of school to jump headlong into the liberation struggle, first acting on behalf of the Indian migrant community, and then joining hands with Mandela for a national struggle.
“Active in leftist politics since his teenage years, he came to prominence in July 1963, when he was arrested with other anti-apartheid activists in Rivonia, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, where the South African Communist Party and the armed wing of the outlawed African National Congress had purchased an isolated farm to use as a meeting place. Among the others arrested was Walter Sisulu, secretary general of the A.N.C,” reported The New York Times.
The trial gained fame for Mandela’s speech in the court-room.
Found guilty and sentenced for life, Kathrada spent 18 years at Robben Island, a prison close to Cape Town and another eight at Pollsmoor Prison.
Kathrada had been a stalwart for the African National Congress and had served in the Mandela government. He had been critical of the direction in which the ANC was headed, under Zuma.
In a released statement, the President has said: “The nation has lost one of its valuable and most respected freedom fighters, Isithwalandwe, Mr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, one of the accused of the famous Rivonia Treason Trial. The passing of Mr Kathrada is a monumental loss not only to his family but to all South Africans as he was one of the fearless and dedicated architects of the free and democratic South Africa. He sacrificed his personal freedom and persevered through hardships for the liberation of all South Africa and to create a democratic, non-racial, peaceful and prosperous South Africa.”
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