Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Ahmed Kathrada - Hamba Kahle, My Dearest Friend!

analysis

Nelson Mandela's close friend bids farewell to his 'elder brother' at the funeral in Qunu on Sunday.

The last time I saw Madiba alive was when I visited him in hospital. I was filled with an overwhelming mixture of sadness, emotion and pride. He tightly held my hand until the end of my brief visit. It was profoundly heartbreaking. It brought me to the verge of tears when my thoughts automatically flashed back to the picture of the man I grew up under. How I wished I'd never had to confront the reality of what I saw.

I first met Madiba in 1946; that's 67 years ago. I recalled the tall, healthy and strong man; the boxer; the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel at the lime quarry on Robben Island. I visualized the prisoner that vigorously exercised every morning before we were unlocked. What I saw at his home after his spell in hospital was this giant of a man, helpless and reduced to a shadow of his former self.

And now the inevitable has happened. He has left us and is now with the "A Team" of the ANC - the ANC in which he cut...

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