Ahmed Kathrada launched the Free Mandela Campaign in 1962, before spending 26 years in apartheid jails, including 18 on Robben Island. 51 years later, on the 27th of October 2013, he launched, together with Fadwa Barghouthi, wife of Marwan Barghouthi and Head of the Popular Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouthi and all prisoners, the International Campaign for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners. This historic launch took place from the cell of the universal symbol of freedom, Nelson Mandela, on Robben Island.
South African participation
Former prisoners from all political groups attended the event to express their solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners. Officials, representatives of the ANC, of civil society organisations, trade unions and solidarity movement with Palestine took part in the meeting. The Chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council delivered the welcoming speech at the launch.
The Palestinian delegation at the launch included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees, the Prisoners’ Society and Palestinian Human rights organisations. The Head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union also took part in the launch. The Ambassador of Palestine to the Republic of South Africa delivered the opening speech on behalf of the Palestinian delegation.
International participation and International High Level Committee
On the international side, Luisa Morgantini, former Vice-President of the European Parliament, participated in the launch and subsequent meetings. Dr Theo Ben-Gurirab, Honorary President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union sent a message of support.
Ahmed Kathrada also announced at this occasion the formation of an International High Level Committee (IHLC) for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners. This International High Level Committee (IHLC) is composed of renowned former prisoners, former leaders, human rights figures and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
The IHLC issued a statement called the Robben Island Declaration for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners which was signed during the event by all attendees.
Meetings following the launch
The launch was followed by meetings with local authorities and public rallies in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The delegation also met with the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of the Republic of South Africa, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the ANC leadership, the Committee on International Relations and Coorperation in the National Assembly (South African Parliament), as well as with Cosatu, the biggest South African trade union, and the solidarity movement with Palestine. A seminar was organised by the Department for International Relations and Cooperation (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), attended by South African and international diplomats. The Palestinian Human rights organisations participated in a Symposium organised jointly by the Human rights Foundation and Ahmed Kathrada Foundation focusing on the legal dimension of the struggle for prisoners’ rights.