I learned of the death of Ahmed Kathrada with dismay and sadness. With our brothers and sisters in South Africa, I mourn the loss of a liberator, and an exemplary leader.
He was born in 1929, in a country still ruled by the British Empire, and in which racial discrimination was an established fact of life.
As a young man, he showed the courage he would display all his life, dedicating himself to political activism in defence of the rights of the oppressed.
In time, he gained exposure abroad, and then returned to South Africa, where he drew closer to the African struggle for equality and freedom. That struggle brought him new allies, among them Nelson Mandela, whose friend and companion he became.
Together, they were among the defendants at the Rivonia Trial. Together, they were sentenced to life. Together, they spent years in detention on Robben Island.
Their conduct in jail exemplifies the best qualities of Africa’s freedom fighters. They never lost hope; they never stopped believing that their cause was just; they always believed that they would triumph in the end.
Their faith was rewarded with the release of Nelson Mandela, and the other detainees; and with the establishment of a free and democratic South Africa, in which Kathrada served in Parliament, and as an adviser to President Mandela.
We remember him as a man of courage; a fighter for the dignity, the equality, and the rights of every African; and as a founding father of the new South Africa.
South Africa, and the continent, have lost a hero. May God rest his soul in peace, and may he comfort the family and friends of this remarkable man.
Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H.
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA
28th March 2017.