South African anti-apartheid stalwart dies

Indo Asian News Service

Cape Town, March 28 (IANS) South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, once jailed for defying a law that discriminated against Indian South Africans, died early on Tuesday. He was 87.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said he passed away peacefully after a short period of illness and following surgery to the brain at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg, Xinhua news agency reported.

"This is a great loss to the ANC (African National Congress), the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole," said Neeshan Balton, Executive Director of the foundation.

"Internationally, he was staunch in his support for the Palestinian struggle. 'Kathy' was an inspiration to millions in different parts of the world," Balton added.

Born on August 21, 1929, 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 people 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 has had an illustrious political career, having served between 1994 and 1999 as the parliamentary counsellor to then President Mandela.

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