Indian-origin anti-apartheid icon Kathrada laid to rest

Indo Asian News Service

Johannesburg, March 29 (IANS) South Africa's revered Indian-origin anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada was laid to rest in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Kathrada, who was once jailed for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans, died on Tuesday at the age of 87.

He passed away after a short period of illness and following a brain surgery, reported the BBC.

Early on Wednesday morning, Kathrada's coffin was carried from his home in Houghton to a nearby mosque.

President Jacob Zuma had declared an official funeral for the African National Congress (ANC) stalwart, but he did not attend Kathrada's funeral at the request of his family, said the report.

Kathrada had called on Zuma to resign last year after he became mired in a series of corruption scandals.

Zuma had ordered the national flag to fly at half-mast following Kathrada's death and had postponed a cabinet meeting so that officials could attend the funeral.

The President would also not attend a memorial service for Kathrada later this week, a government statement said.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa represented the government at Kathrada's funeral, the BBC reported.

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, the keynote speaker at the funeral, said that "on a day like this we should not mince our words".

He said that the anti-apartheid veteran was "deeply disturbed by the current failure of post-apartheid politics".

"Today, we close his eyes permanently. During his life, he opened ours forever," Motlanthe said.

Born on August 21, 1929, to Indian immigrant parents in a town of northwestern South Africa, Kathrada was introduced to politics when he joined a non-racial youth club run by the Young Communist League.

At 17, Kathrada participated in the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign led by the South African Indian Congress.

He was part of 2,000 persons arrested and imprisoned for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans.

Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela, who later became South Africa's first black President, was also imprisoned. Kathrada was one of Mandela's closest colleagues in the struggle against the white rule.

He had an illustrious political career, having served between 1994 and 1999 as the parliamentary counsellor to then President Mandela.

Kathrada is survived by his wife, Barbara Hogan, also an ANC stalwart.