Anti-Apartheid Activist and former South African Political Prisoner visits Kentucky

On Wednesday, April 13th, at an academic convocation at the Singletary Center for the Arts at the University of Kentucky Ahmed Kathrada, a former Special Advisor to South African President Nelson Mandela and a 26 year political prisoner tried at the infamous Rivonai Trial, received the Honorary Doctorate of Letters from university president Lee Todd and provost Kumble Subaswamy. His honorary doctorate recognizes the bond of friendship between Kentucky and South Africa, and reminds us of that connection though we are of Different Lands, yet share Common Ground.

Earlier that day, Mr. Kathrada was present to premiere the traveling exhibit Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy at Lafferty Hall. The exhibit makes its U.S. debut at the University of Kentucky and displays photographs, writings, and a replica of his prison cell on Robben Island where he was held as a political prisoner. View the full program here.

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Available now from the University Press of Kentucky:

When Ahmed Kathrada was released from prison in 1989 together with Walter Sisulu and Raymond Mhlaba after serving twenty-six years of a life sentence, more than 5,000 people came to Soweto to give him and his colleagues a hero’s welcome. A veteran of the anti-apartheid movement who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and other African leaders, Kathrada had been one of the famous Rivonia trial defendants and incarcerated as a political prisoner on Robben Island and at Pollsmoor prison.

No Bread for Mandela is the gripping story of Kathrada’s lifelong battle for justice in South Africa. At age seventeen, Kathrada left school to become a youth organizer for the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council and assisted with uniting various opposition groups under the leadership of the African National Congress. Arrested in 1963 at the age of thirty-four on charges of sabotage and conspiracy against the South African government, Kathrada was sentenced to life in prison. Although he, Nelson Mandela, and other African prisoners were serving the same sentence, under prison regulations of the apartheid regime, Kathrada, who is of Indian descent, received better treatment. Outraged at the inequities of apartheid and unwilling to concede defeat even in prison, Kathrada and his fellow prisoners continued the struggle for equality and justice. In prison, the most extreme form of protest and struggle was hunger strikes. Kathrada also was instrumental in organizing a covert communication network between prisoners in different sections of the prison and with the outside world.

This riveting memoir, spanning the history of modern South Africa, sheds new light on the struggle against apartheid. No Bread for Mandela is the moving and insightful account of a man who served among a loyal cadre of the African National Congress and helped in shaping his country’s history. Kathrada’s life is an inspiration and a model for everyone who seeks peace, justice, and reconciliation.

Ahmed Kathrada was born in South Africa in 1929. After his release from prison in 1989, he was elected as a member of parliament and served as parliamentary counsellor in to President Mandela. In 1994, he was elected chairperson of the Robben Island Council. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Ahmed Kathrada has been so much part of my life over such a long period that it is inconceivable that I could allow him to write his memoirs without me contributing something. Our stories have become so interwoven that the telling of one without the voice of the other being heard somewhere would have led to an incomplete narration.”—Nelson Mandela

“Delightful and often amusing anecdotes of the life of a very self-effacing and yet deeply committed freedom fighter.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“A book of questions and answers. . . . When humanity leaves the room, what do you do if you’re left inside? The extraordinary strength and almost inconceivable grace in these pages are as mind-blowing as the justice and peace Ahmed Kathrada helped bring about.”—Bono

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