28/03/2017 09:14 SAST | Updated 30/03/2017 13:42 SAST

Ahmed Kathrada's Most Notable Moments

An anti-apartheid icon cannot be summarised in a few lines. We noted some of his memorable times.


Ahmed Kathrada died aged 87 in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Donald Gordon Hospital after he contracted pneumonia following an operation related to blood clotting earlier in March.

He was from the calibre of former president Nelson Mandela, whom he called his elder brother, and ANC heavyweight Walter Sisulu, whom he called "father".

We put together a timeline of the struggle stalwarts most notable moments.


Ahmed Mohamed "Kathy" Kathrada was born on 21 August to Indian immigrant parents in Schweizer Reneke, a small town in Western Transvaal (now North West Province).


At the age of 12, he joined the Young Communist League of South Africa, distributing leaflets at street corners. During World War II, he was involved in the anti-war campaign of the Non-European United Front.


At the age of 17, he finished school and went on to work full-time in the offices of the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council after having met ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, I.C Meer and J.N. Singh.

Kathrada participated in the Passive Resistance Campaign of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), which launched the Passive Resistance Movement against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, commonly referred to as the Ghetto Act. The Act sought to give Indians limited political representation and defined the areas where Indians could live, trade and own land.

Kathrada was one of the 2,000 volunteers imprisoned in that campaign and served a month in a Durban jail along with other ardent resisters such as Monty Naicker, Yusuf Dadoo, Goonam, George Singh, Cissie Gool, M.D. Naidoo, and others. This was his first jail sentence for civil disobedience.

Kathrada was a founding member of the Transvaal Indian Volunteer Corps and that of its successor, the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress.


Kathrada enrolled at Wits University but later abandoned his studies to devote himself full-time to political activism. In his first year in university, he was chairperson of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and attended the World Youth Festival in Berlin and was elected leader of the large multi-racial South African delegation. He remained overseas to attend a Congress of the International Union Students in Warsaw, Poland.


Kathrada helped organise the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws, launched jointly by the ANC and the SAIC. The defiance campaign targeted apartheid laws: pass Laws, Group Areas Act, Separate Representation Of Voters Act, and Bantu Authorities Act.


Kathrada was served with banning orders prohibiting him from attending any gatherings and from taking part in the activities of 39 organisations. He was arrested several times for breaking his banning orders.


Kathrada helped organise the multi-racial Congress of the People Campaign, which proclaimed the Freedom Charter, a policy document of the Congress Alliance. Kathrada served on the Alliance's General Purpose Committee.


He was among the 156 Congress activists and leaders charged for High Treason.


The trial continued for four years. All 156 leaders were found not guilty and acquitted. Kathrada, Mandela and Sisulu were among the last 30 to be acquitted.


He was detained for five months following the Sharpeville Masacre during the State of Emergency, after which the ANC and PAC were banned.

Adrian Steirn/21 Icons via Getty Images
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 21, 2011: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE. DOUBLE RATES APPLY. COMPULSORY CREDIT: Adrian Steirn via Getty Images) In a previously unreleased portrait, 'Life Sentence', Ahmed Kathrada is pictured in November 2011 at his home in Johannesburg as part of photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn's 21 Icons South Africa series. Inspired by Nelson Mandela, 21 Icons is a series of short films and photographic portraits documenting the stories of key figures in South Africa's recent history including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Proceeds from the syndication of this portrait will be donated to the Phelophepa I and II health care trains. (Photo by Adrian Steirn/ via Getty Images)


Kathrada was arrested for serving on a strike committee that opposed Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd's plan to declare South Africa a Republic.


He was subjected to house arrest for 13 hours a day and over weekends and public holidays. He went underground to attend secret meetings at Lilliesleaf farm ion Rivonia -- the underground headquarters of the ANC armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which was masked as a private home.


Kathrada was one of the famous Rivonia 11 –- including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Dennis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni -- who were arrested when police raided Liliesleaf. This was Kathrada's 18th arrest on political grounds.

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
RIVONIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 10: A general view of the thatched cottage at Lilisleaf Farm where ANC freedom fighters held their Operation Mayibuye meeting 50 years ago. July 10, 2013 in Rivonia, South Africa. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary since the hideout was raided by police on 11th July 1963. The farm was the secret nerve centre for the ANC underground and the police interrupted a meeting of Operation Mayibuye, a plan to overthrow the Apartheid government. The raid by police led to the arrest of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki, who were later convicted through the infamous Rivonia Trial and most were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


Kathrada was one of the eight of the 11 accused who were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, where he spent 18 years with his colleagues in the isolation section known as B Section of the maximum security prison. His prisoner number was 468/64. Those considered by the apartheid government as influential leaders or members of banned political organisations were kept in this section.

Radu Sigheti / Reuters
A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada adn Dennis Goldberg. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti (SOUTH AFRICA)

[Kathrada continued to pursue academic studies through Unisa while he was in prison. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1968, a bachelor of Bibliography (Library Science and African Politics) in 1968, and a Bachelor of Arts Honours in 1982. His actual graduation ceremony happened in 2003]. He was also awarded he was awarded four honorary degrees, including one from the University of Missouri.


Kathrada was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Cape Town where Mandela, Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni had already been moved a few months before.


He was released from prison at the age of 60. On his release, Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.


Following the unbanning of the ANC in February at its first legal conference in Durban, South Africa, Kathrada was elected on to its national executive committee. He also served on the ANC Interim Leadership Committee and Interim Leadership Group of the South African Communist Party (SACP).


He was elected to the ANC national executive committee at its conference in July, and gave up his previous position. He also became the acting head of the ANC's Department of Information and Publicity.


He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1994, after South Africa's first democratic elections. From 1994 to 1995 he was elected chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council. He served in that capacity until his term expired in 2006. He also served as a Parliamentary Counsellor in the office of the president.


Kathrada retired from his political career.


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NEW DELHI, INDIA- JULY 18: South African politician and anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Kathrada at a function to mark Nelson Mandela International Day in New Delhi on July18, 2011. (Photo by Jyoti Kapoor/India Today Group/Getty Images)

At age 87 Kathrada died after being in hospital for about a month, after initially being hospitalised for surgery related to blood clotting on the brain.

Photo galleryAhmed Kathrada Funeral See Gallery