Kathrada wants to live on South Africa’s Robben Island


14 August 2015

South African anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada revealed that he would like to live on Robben Island, where he was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and others during apartheid. His revelation came at a talk about his coffee table book, Triumph of the Human Spirit, hosted in Lenasia, Johannesburg, yesterday.

The book is a collection of emotional memories of Kathrada’s return to the island. He frequently escorts celebrities, presidents and ordinary individuals on their visits to the former prison.

After 300 visits to Robben Island, he said it had become routine. But the first and second visits were difficult.

“My first visit on Robben Island, after I was released. it was quite a traumatic experience, because a year after our release we were used to space. Flats, houses, halls,” he told daily newspaper, The Citizen.

“And when we [were] confined in this little cell of which I spent 18 of my 26 years [imprisoned], that was difficult to believe how I spent 18 years of my life in that little cell.”

Kathrada spent 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. Now, the struggle stalwart would like to make the island his home.

“We are currently in negotiations with various authorities to try and get the house on the island, specifically for him to receive his guests on the island and [as a place] where he can spend a little bit of time and reflect on the past,” explained Zaakirah Vadi of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to Eye Witness News.


In 1963, Kathrada was arrested in Rivonia and charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government by violent means. He, along with other struggle veterans, Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Billy Nair, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Dennis Goldberg, were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

He was incarcerated with his colleagues on the island for 18 years, before he was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Prison in 1982. Soon after his release in October 1989, the African National Congress (ANC) was unbanned.

SAinfo reporter