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, Africanews.com reported.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the passing away of Kathrada. On Twitter he posted: "Dr Ahmed Kathrada will be remembered as a remarkable personality, whose life was devoted to creating a just & equal society. RIP."
"I was honoured to have interacted with an inspiring personality like Dr Ahmed Kathrada during my South Africa visit last year," he said in another tweet.
Neeshan Balton, Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said, "This is a great loss to the ANC (African National Congress), the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole."
"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.
The foundation said Kathrada will "be buried according to Muslim religious rights."
President Jacob Zuma sent his condolences to Kathrada's family and described him as a "stalwart of the liberation struggle for a free and democratic South Africa".
Zuma declared a special official funeral and instructed that the national flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country until the evening of the official memorial service for "Kathy".
The African National Congress (ANC) described him as an extraordinary leader whose service to South Africa will forever be inscribed.
"May Ahmed rest in peace and rise in glory," Desmond Tutu, the former Cape Town Archbishop, said on Facebook.
"May he rejoice in many heavenly cups of hot chocolate with his old friends and comrades, Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi and Mahlaba, among them," he 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, Xinhua news agency reported.
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 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.