Nelson Mandela Foundation


Ahmed Kathrada’s book A Simple Freedom

June 4, 2009 – The latest book by Nelson Mandela Foundation trustee Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, who is a long-time friend and comrade of Nelson Mandela, has been short-listed for the prestigious Alan Paton Award.

A Simple Freedom: The Strong Mind of Robben Island Prisoner No. 468/64, published in 2008, contains a fusion of the quotations and passages collected by Kathrada during his 26 years in prison with visual images and “epiphanies of his own memories”.

Its short-listing, along with four other works of non-fiction relating to Southern Africa, was announced at a ceremony in Johannesburg on June 3, 2009.

A Simple Freedom was written with Professor Tim Couzens, who worked through seven volumes of notebooks surreptitiously filled by Kathrada while he was imprisoned on Robben Island from June 12, 1964 with Nelson Mandela and others. They had been sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage.

Kathrada, now aged 79, continued writing in his notebooks after he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town in 1982, a few months after Mr Mandela, where he remained until he was released on October 15, 1989.

In his introduction to the book, Mr Mandela wrote: “Kathy’s contribution to our liberation struggle and to our movement is well known and well documented. His courage and his commitment to his comrades are legendary. His mature wisdom was an important ingredient of our deliberations and discussions.

“What further distinguished him was that he, together with a few other comrades, was an important depository of organisational memory. It is important that the history of our struggle and of our movement be recorded fully and with all the different perspectives and nuances. Kathy was always analysing and trying to understand, even while he was an active participant.”

Kathrada’s Memoirs was previously a runner-up for the same award. His other books are Letters from Robben Island and A Free Mind. The award ceremony will take place in Johannesburg on August 1, 2009.



Ahmed Kathrada in his Robben Island prison cell