The death of Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, known to many as Kathy, has been announced. He was one of the group along with Nelson Mandela known as the Rivonia trialists who were put on trial in 1963/1964 with charges that if found guilty they could face the death penalty. They were found guilty but sentenced to life imprisonment. Their lawyers believed that “Kathy” had strong grounds to appeal and that he would be acquitted. However the accused had decided whatever the sentence they would not appeal and also the lawyers did say if “Kathy” appealed the state may be able to reopen the cases of others and seek the death penalty. Ahmed Kathrada spent over 26 years in prison, 18 of these years on Robben Island.
Ahmed Kathrada was last in London in January 2016 and he received the freedom of the City of London. He was a man of principle, integrity, courage with an unswerving commitment to democracy and overcoming racism. He served as Nelson Mandela’s parliamentary counsellor in the first democratic elected government and chaired the Robben Island Museum Council until 2006. He established the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation with the objective of deepening non-racialism, promoting the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa; and a non–racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa.
At Nelson Mandela’s funeral he said in a moving way tribute to his comrades who had died,” when Walter died (Walter Sisulu one his co-accused and the mentor of the group including Mandela) I lost a father with Nelson going I have lost a brother, I don’t know what to do.” In the last few years of his life he became increasingly critical of what was happening in the government and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and was the first signature to a letter from ANC veterans to the leadership of the ANC calling for change.
There are now two surviving Rivonia trialists Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg.
Ahmed Kathrada born 21 August 1929 died 28 March 2017