Johannesburg:The French government has knighted veteran South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada for his life-long service to the community, a media report said on Friday.
Presenting the award on France’s national Bastille Day this week, French ambassador to South Africa Elisabeth Barbier hailed Kathrada for his efforts in ensuring democracy in South Africa.
The award is part of the National Orders of the Legion of Honour established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802, the Jacarandafm.com website reported.
Kathrada, 85, became the confidante of anti-apartheid icon and former South African president Nelson Mandela.
During his struggle, Kathrada spent over 26 years in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island.
In 1954, Kathrada was placed under restrictions and was arrested several times for breaking his “banning orders”.
While in prison, he obtained four university degrees: BA (in History and Criminology), B Bibliography (in African Politics and Library Science), BA Honours (History) and BA Honours (African Politics).
In 1994, Kathrada was elected to Parliament and served as President Mandela’s Parliamentary Counsellor.
Kathrada went on to become chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council.
In June 1999, Kathrada left parliamentary politics but still chairs the museum council.
He also founded the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Kathrada has won “Isithwalandwe” — the highest award bestowed by the African National Congress (ANC).
The French Chevalier (Knight) decoration is presented to a person with minimum 20 years of public service or 25 years of professional activity and “eminent merits”.