Ahmed Kathrada, Anti-Apartheid Activist and Mandela’s Lifelong Friend

Posted on December 15, 2013


Ahmed Kathrada is an anti-apartheid activist who spent 26 years in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.

The Man Behind Nelson Mandela

[..] Anthony Sampson, author of the authorized biography of Nelson Mandela, mentions in the preface Ahmed Muhamed Kathrada from whom Anthony had collected most of the information the book. Ahmed Kathara had spent 26 yrs. and 3 months in prison with Nelson Mandela, later became his advisor during his tenure as the president and held high portfolio in the Government of South Africa. It will never be a mistake to describe Ahmed Kathara, popularly called as Kathy, as the man behind Mandele.

Ahmed Kathara was born on 21 august 1929 in a family having roots in India. His struggle against the apartheid started from a very young age of 11. Joining the youth wing of the South African Communist league and at the age of 21, he was arrested among other 2000 citing violation of law framed for the protection of color prejudices against Indians. For his fighting against injustice, he had got inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. At this time he had opportunity to get acquaintance with freedom fighters like Mandelae, Walter Sisulu, IC Meer, and JN Singh. Thus he became a hardcore activist of the African National Congress.

In 1951 he participated in a youth conference held at East Berlin which was organized under the auspicious both of the International Union of Students and World Federation of Democratic Youth. His visit to Auschwitz Concentration camp at Poland made impact in his life.

He returned to his home country in 1952 and got involved in the struggle against the apartheid. Consequently, activists including Mandele were jailed for rigorous imprisonment for nine months. Ahmed Kathara was also imprisoned during the fight for social justice and freedom. In 1956, following the trial of Rivonia for the offence of treason and sabotage, he jailed as a life prisoner with Mandela and others.

In prison life, Kathy continued his education and gratuated in History, Criminology, African politics and library science, history, and African Politics (Honours). He was very thirsty to proceed with post graduate study, but the jail rules didn’t allow the prisoners to move for PG studies.

[…] Please click here to read the article that describes this companion and friend of the great Mandela.

In the following video, anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada shares his thoughts on Nelson Mandela and reveals personal experiences he has shared with the icon. This interview was done for the News24 Nelson Mandela media centre – a special project for Mandela’s 90th birthday.

Ahmed Kathrada talking about Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela Receiving His Biography from Ahmed Kathrada

‘Letters to Zohra’ is a 53 minute documentary on the life of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada who was found guilty together with Nelson Mandela and others in 1964 at the notorious Rivonia trial for preparing an uprising against the apartheid regime.

This documentary highlights Kathrada’s role using extracts from some of the more than 900 letters he succeeded in having smuggled out of prison during his 26 years of internment. Kathrada’s most important contact in the outside world — his eyes and ears in ‘ordinary life’ — was his niece Zohra.

He was released in 1990 and served in the parliament, representing the ANC and advising Mandela

A film by Henna Renfurm & Saskia Vredeveld
To be released in 2013

Ahmed Kathrada Documentary – ‘Letters to Zohra’

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