CAPTION: Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada revisiting Robben Island Maximum Prison yard in August 1996. The prison yard was maintained by Kathrada and his fellow inmates during their incarceration on the island from 1964 to 1982. Kathrada spent 18 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner fighting against Apartheid. Photo cred: Benny Gool, Johannesburg Cape Times.

Robben Island Museum (RIM) is deeply saddened by the passing of the struggle stalwart, Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, early this morning, Tuesday, 28 March 2017. Today is a dark hour for the country as we mourn a struggle stalwart of notable influence. Comrade (Cde) Kathrada, affectionately known as Uncle Kathy, served as RIM’s first Council Chairperson from 1994 to 2006. He will be remembered for his gentle spirit that echoes humanity through adversity. Below is a brief reflection of Uncle Kathy’s life history and his interaction with RIM.

Kathrada was appointed as Chairperson of the Robben Island Council and was tasked with establishing Robben Island Museum to recognise and preserve the social memory associated with all Ex-Political Prisoners that served their sentences at Robben Island. In this capacity, Uncle Kathy was instrumental to what Robben Island Museum is today, including the inscription of the island as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The World Heritage Status of the Island is premised on his famous quotation which reads as ‘the triumph of human spirit against the forces of evil, a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness, a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness’. This quotation is often summarised as ‘the triumph of human spirit over enormous hardship and adversity.’

Over the years, Uncle Kathy has interacted with Robben Island Museum in various capacities:

Firstly, Uncle Kathy accompanied VIP visitors to the island and gave them the collective experience of Political Prisoners in the hands of apartheid government represented by the Prison Officials. He conducted over 300 tours and he published a book about these tours in August 2015. The book was launched at the Nelson Mandela Gateway.

Secondly, he was involved in educational programmes of Robben Island Museum. These included seminars for young people, where he played a major role in transforming their mind-sets to become better and responsible citizens, who are not prejudiced by racialism. He was a mentor, a teacher, and inspirational individual to the young people that he interacted with.

Lastly, in his private capacity and as the founder of Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, he remained available for consultation by Robben Island Museum on the narrative and interpretation of their individual and collective stories.

“On behalf of Robben Island Museum and the board, we extend our heart-felt condolences to the Kathrada family, friends and associates,” shares RIM Council Member and Chairperson of Heritage Committee (former Robben Island political prisoner), Mr Luyanda Mpahlwa. “Today, as we remember Ahmed Kathrada, Robben Island Museum, would like to join the nation and the rest of the World in mourning the passing of this struggle icon, a struggle giant who until his death stood for what he believed in,” concludes Mpahlwa.

For more information about Robben Island Museum, please visit: or contact: +27 (0)21 413 4200. Join Robben Island Museum on their social media platforms and share your island experience: Facebook (Robben Island Museum – An agency of the Department of Arts & Culture) / Twitter (@robben_island).


For media queries, please contact:

Morongoa Ramaboa

083 465 5118


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More information about Robben Island Museum

Robben Island Museum (RIM) is a public entity responsible for managing, maintaining, presenting, developing and marketing Robben Island as a national estate and World Heritage Site. It was established by the Department of Arts and Culture in 1997.

RIM implements a wide range of conservation, educational, tourist development, research, archiving and general heritage programmes that are designed to achieve its mandate; conserve the Island’s natural and cultural resources and heritage; and promote it as a platform for critical debate and life-long learning.

RIM is also responsible for managing and maintaining the assets of the Island. These include the Maximum and Medium Security Prison Complexes, Robert Sobukwe’s House, the Curio and Village Shops, the Village Precinct and associated recreational facilities, the Helipad and runway on the Island, World War 2 memorials, power generation and water processing plants, Jetty 1 and the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront, the Mayibuye Archives, the three (3) ferries that transport people to the Island and the fleet of buses used by tourists on the Island.