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Sonia Gandhi felicitates South African freedom fighter

By Fakir Hassen, IANS,

Johannesburg : Sonia Gandhi, president of India’s ruling Congress party, has felicitated South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada on his 80th birthday.

Gandhi Friday recalled Kathrada’s rich contribution to the struggle against apartheid in a message read out by his long-time friend Mosie Moolla, who represented the African National Congress in India during the apartheid era.

“We in India have admired your courage of conviction and resolute determination to fight for the dignity and freedom of the people of South Africa,” Gandhi said, adding that “the noble objective of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (that has been established here) to deepen the values of non racialism and promoting the values of rights in the freedom charter is indeed commendable.”

Kathrada has been a leading voice for over 60 years in South Africa’s quest to establish a non-racial society.

As celebrations continued countrywide for the past week to mark Kathrada’s birthday, Indian Consul-General Navdeep Suri hosted a dinner at his residence for a select group that included Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is currently in the country on an official visit.

A long time compatriot of global icon Nelson Mandela, Kathrada was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in the infamous Rivonia trial along with Mandela and four others. He spent over two decades with Mandela at the notorious Robben Island prison.

Speaking on the occasion, Sharma saluted the remarkable contribution of Mandela and Kathrada in the struggle against apartheid and in their continued efforts to fight against racial discrimination and prejudice.

“Comrade Kathy (as Kathrada is affectionately known) will always be remembered for his spirit of sacrifice, his selfless service to society and above all, his humility and self effacing nature,” Sharma said as he handed over a special souvenir on behalf of the government and people of India to Kathrada.

Sharma also referred to the high esteem that Kathrada enjoys in India and recalled the special dinner that had been organised to commemorate his 78th birthday two years ago during the visit of Congress President Sonia Gandhi to South Africa.

In his response, Kathrada expressed his own profound appreciation for the support that he had always received from India and recalled the commitment of Indian and Congress party leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to the African National Congress’ (ANC) struggle against apartheid.

Acknowledging Sharma’s commitment to Africa and to South Africa in particular for over three decades, Kathrada also asked the minister to convey his thanks to India for the generous donation of $200,000 that was presented to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation at a gala dinner in Lenasia, 35 km south of here, by High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia Aug 15.