President Jacob Zuma will not attend the funeral of struggle stalward Ahmed Kathrada, the presidency confirmed on Wednesday. Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said this was in line with the Kathrada family's wishes, confirming earlier reports that the family did not want Zuma to attend.
Kathrada's funeral will take place at the Westpark Cemetary in Randburg, Johannesburg, at 10am on Wednesday morning. Kathrada will receive a state funeral.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will represent government at the funeral. Kathrada wrote a letter to Zuma asking him to stand down as President, shortly after Zuma fired former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with ANC parliamentary back bencher, Des Van Rooyen.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Presidency also said Zuma postponed the start of a Cabinet meeting to Wednesday afternoon to enable members to attend the funeral.
"President Jacob Zuma has again expressed deep sadness and extended his heartfelt condolences to former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan and family on the passing of one of the most respected struggle stalwarts and former Member of Parliament.
"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," the President said.
Mr Kathrada will be remembered for his discipline and the fearless leadership that he displayed which led to his arrest in 1963 in Rivonia, near Johannesburg.
He became one of the accused in the Rivonia Trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment along other struggle stalwarts, Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr Walter Sisulu, Mr Govan Mbeki, Mr Andrew Mlangeni, Mr Elias Motsoaledi, Mr Raymond Mhlaba and Mr Denis Goldberg for charges of sabotage and attempting to overthrow the apartheid government through violent means.
Mr Kathrada served 26 years in prison in which he was held at Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prisons. Following his release in 1989, he was elected to serve as a member of the democratic parliament, representing the governing party," the Presidency said.