Nelson Mandela Death, Did Margaret Thatcher play a role in helping to save Nelson Mandela’s life? That is the remarkable claim made by one of the former South African president’s closest friends, Ahmed Kathrada.
“Her word did count – I’m sure of it,” Mr Kathrada told me, on hearing of the death of Baroness Thatcher.
Between 1963 and 1964, Nelson Mandela was a defendant at the Rivonia trial, accused of trying to overthrow the apartheid government.
Once we’d forgiven our oppressors – the national government and individuals – we didn’t find it difficult to forgive everybody who had different views from us”
End Quote Ahmed Kathrada ANC member
Mr Kathrada was one of nine other men in the dock with him. The death penalty was initially sought by prosecutors, but was later changed to life imprisonment.
Mr Mandela eventually spent 27 years in prison. Mr Kathrada was released a few months earlier in October 1989.
After the end of apartheid and the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, Mr Kathrada sometimes took visiting delegations and VIPs on guided tours of the notorious Robben Island jail where he and Mr Mandela had been incarcerated.
“I had the opportunity to accompany [Margaret Thatcher] a few years ago,” said Mr Kathrada.
“She assured me that she had played a positive role during our trial.
“We were expecting a death sentence. We were well aware that there was all sorts of pressure from South Africa and abroad – pressure from people not necessarily agreeing with” the ANC’s policies, he said.