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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Kathrada, Ahmed Mohamed (Kathy)

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Kathrada was born into a scholarly Muslim family, who were devotees of Gandhi, in the Western Transvaal in 1929. He was schooled in Johannesburg from 1938 until the age of 17, when he started working full-time in the office of the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council. In December 1946 he served his first jail sentence for civil disobedience.

As a student of the University of the Witwatersrand and as chairman of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress, Kathrada attended the Berlin World Youth Festival in 1951 and a Congress on the International Union of Students in Warsaw. He also worked at the headquarters of the World Federation of Democratic Youth in Budapest for nine months before returning to South Africa in 1952, where he helped to organise the Defiance Campaign. In December 1952 he was tried with other leaders and received a nine-month suspended sentence. As he was restricted by bans from overt political participation, he assisted his parents in the organisation of the private Central Indian High School in Johannesburg.

After being arrested in 1956 for treason, he remained a defendant in the Treason Trial until 1961. Kathrada was placed under 12-hour house arrest in October 1962, but disappeared several months later and remained underground as a leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe until his arrest at Rivonia in 1963. He received a life sentence and served 18 years on Robben Island. In 1982 he was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison in Cape Town, and in 1989 he was released.

After the ANC was unbanned in 1990, Kathrada served on the ANC Interim Leadership Committee and Interim Leadership Group of the South African Communist Party (SACP). When he was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in July 1991, he gave up his position in the SACP. Kathrada became acting head of the ANC's Department of Information and Publicity, head of Public Relations in 1991. He went on Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) in 1992. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1994. In 1994 to 1995 he was elected Chairperson of the Robben Island Council. He also served as a Parliamentary Councilor in the Office of the President and thereafter in June 1999 he took leave of parliamentary politics. He still serves as the Chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council.

Sources: Karis, T. and Carter, G.M. 1977. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964, Volume 4. Hoover Institution Press: Stanford. Pp 48-49


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