Veteran Indian-origin anti- apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in South African jails with Nelson Mandela and became one of his closet aides, today vowed to continue the ideals his mentor stood for.
"While we may be drowned in sorrow and grief, we must be proud and grateful that after the long walk paved with obstacles and suffering, we salute you as a fighter for freedom to the end," he said following the demise of Mandela, who died today at the age of 95.
"Farewell my elder brother, my mentor, my leader. With all the energy and determination at our command, we pledge to join the people of South Africa and the world to perpetuate the ideals and values for which you have devoted your life,"he said in a statement issued by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Kathrada, 85, said he and Mandela used to refer to each other as "Madala", which means old man.
"It became our standard form of informal address. To me it signifies mutual trust, respect, liking, and close comradeship."
"Madala, as you light-heartedly started calling me some years ago, it both grieves me and inspires me to write this to you now, with the hour of your death still a fresh wound in our peoples' hearts," said Kathrada, whose parents hailed from Surat in Gujarat.
Kathrada recalled his first encounter with Mandela when he was a teenager.
"We have known each other for 67 years, and I never imagined I'd be witness to the unavoidable and traumatic reality of your passing," he said.
"Your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality and justice continually served as a source of enormous strength to me and so many millions of people around the world.
"Your smile, which lingers still, was always from the heart, never forced, and the great joy you took in the world around you, especially in children, was unmistakeable. Most of all, you symbolise, and always will, collective leadership, reconciliation, unity, forgiveness, nation- building and a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa." Kathrada also highlighted Mandela's self-confidence and absence of pettiness which stood out and was epitomised in his attitude towards opposition parties that he united in the first democratic South African government that he led as the President from 1994 to 1999.