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South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada dies aged 87

Veteran South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada has died aged 87, his foundation says.

It says Mr Kathrada passed away peacefully in a Johannesburg hospital “after a short period of illness, following surgery to the brain”.

Along with Nelson Mandela, Mr Kathrada was among eight African National Congress activists sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

They were convicted of trying to topple the white minority government.

Mr Kathrada, affectionately known as Kathy, spent more than 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on the notorious Robben Island.

He was not only one of Mr Mandela’s closest friends, but he was also a human rights activist in his own right who had a long history in the struggle against apartheid, says Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg.

Anti-apartheid activist and close friend of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, talks during a tribute to Mandela at Gandhi Hall, on December 8, 2013

He joined the Young Communist League at the age of 12 and later became a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress.

He was released from prison in 1989, and after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, President Mandela persuaded Mr Kathrada to join him in government as his political adviser.

Mr Kathrada left parliament in 1999, but remained active in politics, criticising the recent direction of the ANC and calling on President Jacob Zuma to resign.

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