Ahmed Kathrada: South Africa’s anti-apartheid veteran dies

Veteran South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada has died aged 87, his foundation says.

It says Mr Kathrada passed away peacefully in a Johannesburg hospital “after a short period of illness, following surgery to the brain”.

Along with Nelson Mandela, Mr Kathrada was among eight African National Congress activists sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

They were convicted of trying to topple the white minority government.

Apartheid was a legalised system of discrimination against non-white people introduced in South Africa in 1948.

But laws that discriminated against non-whites existed prior to that.

Born into a family of Indian origin in 1929, Mr Kathrada, affectionately known as Kathy, was affected by those laws.

He was not only one of Mr Mandela’s closest friends, but also a human rights activist in his own right who had a long history in the struggle against discrimination and apartheid, says the BBC’s Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg.

Mr Kathrada spent more than 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on the notorious Robben Island, where Mr Mandela was also jailed.

Under apartheid, even prisoners were treated differently depending on their racial origin: White prisoners got the most privileges, followed by those of Indian origin, while black people got the least.

Mr Kathadra refused to accept his privileges unless they were also extended to his black comrades.

He joined the Young Communist League at the age of 12 and later became a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress.

He was released from prison in 1989, and after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, President Mandela persuaded Mr Kathrada to join him in government as his political adviser.

Mr Kathrada left parliament in 1999, but remained active in politics, criticising the recent direction of the ANC and calling on President Jacob Zuma to resign.

Source: Angola Press News Agency