President Zuma will not attend the funeral and memorial service in compliance with the wishes of the family.
President Zuma released a statement indicating that he will not be attending Mr Ahmed Kathrada’s family as per his family request, a move that has been applauded by many South Africans.
Zuma unexpectedly postponed the start of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting “to later this afternoon” to allow members to attend Kathrada’s funeral.
“The nation has lost one of its valuable and most respected freedom fighters, Isithwalandwe, Mr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, one of the accused of the famous Rivonia Treason Trial. The passing of Mr Kathrada is a monumental loss not only to his family but to all South Africans as he was one of the fearless and dedicated architects of the free and democratic South Africa. He sacrificed his personal freedom and persevered through hardships for the liberation of all South Africa and to create a democratic, non-racial, peaceful and prosperous South Africa,” the President Zuma in a statement.
Mr Kathrada will be remembered for his discipline and the fearless leadership that he displayed which led to his arrest in 1963 in Rivonia, near Johannesburg.
He became one of the accused in the Rivonia Trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment along other struggle stalwarts, Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr Walter Sisulu, Mr Govan Mbeki, Mr Andrew Mlangeni, Mr Elias Motsoaledi, Mr Raymond Mhlaba and Mr Denis Goldberg for charges of sabotage and attempting to overthrow the apartheid government through violent means.
Mr Kathrada served 26 years in prison in which he was held at Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prisons. Following his release in 1989, he was elected to serve as a member of the democratic parliament, representing the governing party.
President Zuma has declared a special official funeral and directed that flags be flown at half-mast until the evening of the memorial service.
Mr Kathrada will be laid to rest today, 29 Mar 2017 at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg.
An official memorial service is being organised by government led by the Presidency, to pay tribute to the struggle hero. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the government delegation to the funeral and memorial service.