South Africans awoke to sad news of the passing of the struggle veteran, Ahmed Kathrada, who was affectionately known as “uncle Kathy.”

According to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Kathrada, 87, passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg.The foundation also said Kathrada passed away “peacefully” after a short period of illness, following brain surgery.

Kathrada will be buried according to Muslim religious rights at the Westpark Cemetery, Beyers Naude Drive, Johannesburg at 10 am on Wednesday. The Janaza (Islamic term for funeral) will leave Masjid Furqaan in Houghton at 9 am. Members of the public and the media are welcome to attend the funeral ceremony, the foundation said.

President Jacob Zuma has declared a “special official funeral” for the late Rivonia Treason Trialist and stalwart of the liberation struggle. Zuma has also instructed that the national flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country from Tuesday until the evening of Kathrada’s official memorial service.

“President Zuma sends his deepest condolences to his partner, former Minister of Public Enterprises Ms Barbara Hogan, the Kathrada family and his political home, the African National Congress, which Uncle Kathy served selflessly throughout his adult life,” the Presidency said in a statement.

The anti-apartheid icon was sentenced to life imprisonment 1964 and served 18 years on Robben Island before being transferred to Pollsmoor in Cape Town in 1982. He was later released and served as an ANC MP under Madiba, who remained a close friend.

Former president Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada on the eve of Mandela’s 80th birthday in 2009. Picture: Debbie Yazbek/Nelson Mandela Foundation

The ANC bestowed its highest honour, Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe on Kathrada in 1992 for his selfless dedication to the struggle for a free democratic non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has hailed anti-apartheid struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada as a selfless man who fought for justice and non-racialism to the end.

“These were the people of the highest integrity and moral fibre who through their humility and humanity, inspired our collective self-worth and the world’s self-confidence in us.

“Ahmed Kathrada was one of those leaders. A man of remarkable gentleness, modesty and steadfastness. He once wrote to the President to argue that he did not deem himself important enough to be awarded a high order,” said Tutu.

Ahmed Kathrada with US President Barack Obama on Robben Island. Picture: Madelene Cronje/Pool

Tribute has been pouring from all the corners of the world since the news broke, many described the veteran as funny, selfless, a stalwart fighter and a leader who was part of a special group of South Africans who will continue to inspire the nation after his death.

Here are some of the heart-warming tribute messages on Twitter:

Read: Why are we surprised with Zille ‘twit’?

Adapted from Press release/ Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

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