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Ahmed Kathrada, Anti-Apartheid Leader Jailed Alongside Mandela, Dies at 87

JOHANNESBURG — Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in jail — many of them alongside Nelson Mandela — for acts of sabotage against South Africa's previous white minority government, died in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning. He was 87 years old.

Kathrada died after being admitted to hospital with blood clotting in his brain earlier in March.

"Kathy was an inspiration to millions in different parts of the world," Neeshan Balton, the chief executive of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said in a statement. "This is great loss to the ANC (the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party), the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole."

Image: Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and close friend of former South African President Nelson Mandela poses in his house in Johannesburg on July 16, 2012.
Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and close friend of former South African President Nelson Mandela poses in his house in Johannesburg on July 16, 2012. Stephane De Sakutin / AFP - Getty Images, File

Tributes poured in for Kathrada, who was released from prison in October 1989 at the age of 60.

"Comrade Kathy was a gentle, humane and humble soul. He was a determined revolutionary who gave his entire life to the liberation struggle in our country," said Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

Kathrada was born on August 21, 1929, to Indian immigrant parents in a small town in northwestern South Africa.

He was arrested on the outskirts of Johannesburg in July, 1963 when the police swooped on Liliesleaf Farm in the suburb or Rivonia, where he was meeting with and others "banned" by the apartheid government.

Their arrest led to the Rivonia trial in which eight accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor.

After his release from prison, Kathrada was a member of parliament and he married anti-apartheid activist Barbara Hogan, who herself had been sentenced to 10 years in jail for high treason against the apartheid government in 1982.

Image: President Nelson Mandela talks to fellow veteran politician Ahmed Kathrada before Mandela's address to Parliament in Cape Town March 2, 1999.
President Nelson Mandela talks to fellow veteran politician Ahmed Kathrada before Mandela's address to Parliament in Cape Town March 2, 1999. Reuters, File

Recently Kathrada was a vocal critic of scandal-plagued President Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress government.

In April last year Kathrada called on Zuma to resign after South Africa's highest court found that Zuma had violated his oath of office by refusing to pay back public money spent on upgrading his rural home.

"I know that if I were in the president's shoes, I would step down with immediate effect," he said. "I believe that is what would help the country to find its way out of a path that it never imagined it would be on, but one that it must move out of soon."