Kathrada was a giant in our lives‚ says fellow Island prisoner
Aron Hyman | 2017-03-28 18:35:40.0
To his fellow political prisoners‚ Ahmed Kathrada was “a giant like Nelson Mandela”.
Robben Island Museum heritage committee chairman Luyanda Mpahlwa described Kathrada’s role as a mentor to younger prisoners‚ saying “he brought out the human in me again”.
Mentors like Kathrada made jail conditions more bearable‚ said Mpahlwa‚ adding that the late struggle icon had gone on to “educate” some of the greatest leaders of the 21st century about the experience of prisoners held there.
“Uncle Kathy accompanied VIP visitors to the island and gave them the collective experience of political prisoners in the hands of the apartheid government represented by the prison officials‚” Mpahlwa said on Tuesday.
He conducted more than 300 tours‚ some of the most recent including former US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and their families.
Mpahlwa said Kathrada took the Obamas to the quarry where prisoners were forced to dig limestone‚ and to his and Mandela’s cells.
“He mentioned that his cell had an advantage because he was looking outside‚ while Madiba’s cell was looking into the courtyard‚” said Mpahlwa.
“He said he used to enjoy seeing the warders taking their children to school through his window because one of the things that prisoners missed most were children.”
After his visit to the prison in 2013‚ Obama wrote in the island guest book; “On behalf of our family‚ we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island‚ who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”
– Additional reporting by Sealy McMurrey‚ Emily Rizzo and Alexa Cole
– TMG Digital/The Times