Life-long activist, former political prisoner and South African politician Ahmed Kathrada is one of seven highly esteemed figures to be awarded an honorary degree at UCT's June or December graduation ceremonies this year.
A veteran of the South African liberation struggle, Rivonia trialist, long-serving political prisoner on Robben Island and Pollsmoor Maximum Prison, ANC leader and Member of Parliament, Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada was introduced to politics as a child in Johannesburg when he joined a non-racial youth club run by the Young Communist League.
At the age of 17 he participated in the Passive Resistance Campaign of the South African Indian Congress and became one of 2 000 people who were arrested and imprisoned for defying a law that discriminated against Indians. This was followed by various arrests and charges until he was sentenced in the Rivonia Trial to life imprisonment with hard labour, along with former president Nelson Mandela and ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu. Kathrada spent 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.
While in prison he obtained four university degrees. Today he holds various honorary degrees. Soon after his release in 1989, he was elected onto the ANC's National Executive Committee. In 1994 he was elected to Parliament and served as Mandela's parliamentary counsellor. He was chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council until his term expired in 2006.
Kathrada has received numerous awards, including Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe, the highest award bestowed by the ANC, and also the Presidential Order for Meritorious Service, Class 1: Gold.
In 2008, in pursuance of a life-long vision of a non-racial South Africa, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was established.
Photo of Ahmed Kathrada courtesy of GovernmentZA, accessed via flickr.
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