Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and Mandela ally, dies

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"But many South Africans looked up to him as a favorite grandparent", Nobel laureate and former archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a statement.

Kathrada, who is fondly known by the nickname, "Kathy" was born to Indian immigrants parents on August 21, 1929, in Northwestern South Africa. He later became a member of the ANC military wing's high command.

"We must say, as the leadership of the ANC, we are going to prioritise the people and we are going to fight corruption and all these other problems that are bedevilling the movement today".

Following decades of activism, Kathrada was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labour in 1964, together with seven other ANC luminaries such as Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, after a guilty verdict during the Rivonia treason trail.

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He was moved to Pollsmoor prison in 1982 and was released from jail on October 15, 1989, at the age of 60, having spent just over 26 years in jail. "He was selfless in the approach that it did not matter what happened to him as long as the country was free", he said. He served as the parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) from 1994 to 1999.

Mail and Guardian reports that a close friend of the family revealed that, during the last moments of his life, Kathrada allegedly said that he did not want the president to attend his funeral. "How I wish I never had to confront what I saw".

During the past year, Kathrada was a regular at demonstrations and marches around South Africa, frequently offering his support to students protesting for free education.

A fellow target in the Rivonia trial, 91-year-old Andrew Mlangeni, said Tuesday that his friend criticized the ANC because he loved it and "was prepared to say where it had gone wrong".

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In an open letter, Kathrada criticized the president for a series of corruption scandals that have shaken South Africans and rocked investor confidence in the country.

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"As the president of the current government, Mr Jacob Zuma, plans his Cabinet reshuffling, we advise him to learn from the likes of Ahmed Kathrada and appoint people who have the country's interest at heart", Sigudu said.

"I know that if I were in the President's shoes, I would step down with immediate effect".

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