Indian-origin South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada has been awarded the Freedom of the City of Cape Town, becoming the sixth recipient of the coveted award.
The announcement and vote came two days before Kathrada, affectionately known as “Uncle Kathy”, would celebrate his 86th birthday. The award brought him in the likes of Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Kathrada's involvement in the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Congress (ANC) led him to his long-term imprisonment following the Rivonia Trial. In 1964, along with Mandela and other South African greats Rivonia Triallists, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, Kathrada were sentenced to life imprisonment. He served most of his sentence on Robben Island and was released in 1989 after 26 years of incarceration. He also wrote a biography of Mandela, while in jail. Following his release, he was elected to serve as a member of parliament, representing the ANC.
On receiving the award, Mr. Kathrada said, “We must build a future of justice, equality and dignity for each and every person in Cape Town, and indeed, in our country, so that each citizen can aspire to and achieve to their fullest potential". Kathrada, also said in a lighter vein that he was awarded as all he had done was serve 26 years as a political prisoner alongside Mandela and others. He accepted the award on the behalf of thousands of South African citizens who had sacrificed life for a non-racial and democratic society.
Kathrada was born in the small country town of Schweizer-Reneke in the Western Transvaal, the fourth of sixth children in a Gujarati-family of South African Indian Muslim immigrant parents from Surat. He was also awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in 2005.He was also the chief guest on Nelson Mandela International Day at the India International Center.