Presidency: Zuma will stay away from Kathrada funeral at family's request

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma says he will not be attending Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial service and funeral this morning in compliance with the wishes of the stalwart’s family.

In a statement released a short while ago, the president has reiterated that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the government delegation to the services.

Following reports that the president was not welcome at the funeral, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation moved to clarify that everyone was welcome.

Kathrada, who died on Tuesday at the age of 87, will receive an official special funeral

The funeral is expected to be an inter-faith service but the late struggle stalwart will be buried according to Muslim rites.

Some guests have begun arriving for the funeral, which is expected to start soon.

Among them are Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang and several of his colleagues at the foundation.

While proceedings are yet to get underway, Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat says that when a person dies in the Muslim faith, their body is cleansed and then wrapped in three sheets of white cloth for the family to mourn.

He says when Ahmed Kathrada's body arrives at the cemetery, a short prayer will be said and then the struggle stalwart will be buried shortly after.

Read the full statement from the Presidency below:

President Jacob Zuma has postponed the start of today’s Cabinet meeting to later this afternoon to enable members to attend the funeral of struggle stalwart Mr Ahmed Kathrada.

President Jacob Zuma has again expressed deep sadness and extended his heartfelt condolences to former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan and family on the passing of one of the most respected struggle stalwarts and former Member of Parliament.

“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 said.

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.

President Zuma will not attend the funeral and memorial service in compliance with the wishes of the family.

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