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Indian-origin Kathrada pays moving tribute to Mandela

Pretoria, Dec 15:  Ahmed Kathrada, the Indian-origin veteran anti-apartheid activist and aide of Nelson Mandela, moved many mourners to tears when he paid a poignant tribute to the late statesman during the state funeral at Qunu village in South Africa's Eastern Cape province on Sunday.

"When Walter (Sisulu) died, I lost a father, when you died I lost a brother, now I don't know who to turn to," Kathrada said.

A long-time friend of Mandela, Kathrada said the last time he saw Mandela alive was when he visited him in hospital, South Africa's government news agency SA News reported.

"He tightly held my hand... and brought all emotions... Farewell my dear brother, my mentor my leader... I have lost a brother."

Kathrada and Mandela were both imprisoned in Robben Island for their political views.

"I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who rigorously exercised every morning. Now the inevitable has happened. He left us to join the 'A team of the ANC'. 

"Together, we shared ideas and walked side by side in the shadow of death," Kathrada said.

"We are deeply grateful to Madiba... We are deeply grateful that dignity has been restored to the people of South Africa, we are deeply grateful to Chapter 9 institutions that zealously guard our Constitution," he added.

Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected black president, died of illness in his Johannesburg home Dec 5 at the age of 95.

Update: 15-December-2013