Conversations Ahmed Kathrada

With the passing of struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada in the early hours of Tuesday, 28 March, the country reflects on the icon’s legacy and contribution towards racial equality in South Africa.

And so, after having recently read Conversations With a Gentle Soul (PanMacMillan), it’s easy to understand why Nelson Mandela counted the late freedom fighter among his closest friends. Despite 26 years in prison – 18 of them on Robben Island – he was humble, philosophical and often very funny as he shared a wealth of stories about life before, during and after apartheid.

A life-long activist, he served as Mandela’s parliamentary counsellor from 1994 to 1999 and, with a vision for a non-racist South Africa, formed the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in 2008. Like Mandela, Kathrada had a genuine love for children and the book’s many anecdotes of his encounters with young people reveal the softer side of the determined and principled activist. 

The apparently tireless 87-year-old was vocal in his criticism of the current state of the ANC and was one of the 100 ANC struggle stalwarts to step forward in 2016 to call for an end to corruption, ill-discipline, factionalism, abuse of state power and resources within the party.

This gentle soul’s authenticity and incorruptible belief in the possibility of a truly equal society make Kathrada’s final literary offering an inspiring and relevant read.

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