Man is always seeking to better his standard of living, seeking greener pastures. It was no different for the people in India. Although vast and rich in natural resources, there were still opportunities sought beyond her shores. Among some of India’s exports, their multitude of spices and fabrics was in demand and the pioneering Dutch sea farers shipped these to far off lands during the 17th century.
The sea port of Surat was renowned as the most important trading post on the western seaboard of the Gujerat province. Indians from Gujerat were employed on the Dutch, British and Arab ships and thus made their way to the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius, the Seychelles, Mombasa and the eastern coastal sea ports of Africa. They sailed as far as the West Indies to the British and the Dutch colonies. Indian labour was recruited to theses colonies
including the Natal sugar plantations by the British.
As information filtered back to India there grew a new awareness of the opportunities in the “new far off lands” and by the 1800’s the sailors and indentured labourers were followed by those interested in trade. “By the early 1820’s, Gujerati entrepreneurs were solidly entrenched on the Indian Ocean Islands and were considering expanding their interests into South Africa.” (The Post).
One of the first Kholvadian to own businesses in South Africa was Mohamed Ismail and Company (MI&C) in Pretoria in 1883. The business moved to Klerksdorp the next year. The Asiatic Land Tenure Act 1885 was passed, which restricted the trade and residential rights to designated locations in each of the towns of the old Transvaal.
This forced MI&C to establish a nominee business in Middelburg. Amod Moosa Bhyat “Seventeen Bhayat” established a business at the age of 17 in Balfour. At the time of Mahatma Ghandi’s famous march, Bhyat’s Store served as a refreshment station for the marchers. A photo of Bhayat with Gandhi appears in the Heidelberg Museum.
In 1909 Ghandi successfully defended Bhyat who was tried for contravening The Land Tenure Asiatic Act (1885).
In 1922 Kholvad traders and businessmen in South Africa donated money to establish the Water Works Project in Kholvad which provided tap water for residents. It was the first village to have reticulated water. In 1935 MAIK introduced electricity in Kholvad and established the Electricity Supply Commission.
In the old business system, new trading licenses were not easily obtainable. Lost licences could not be replaced. In the spirit of “Ubuntu” traders experiencing any difficulties could always depend on the community for assistance.
These businesses served as an important social network and resource for young Kholvadians, mainly men, arriving in South Africa. It was in these shops that they learnt business etiquettes, established a network of contacts for business and learnt about surviving in a new country. The presence of a home base also gave them the opportunity to explore various regions of the country and establish themselves as successful business entrepreneurs.
The Kholvad influence and contribution was immense during the last 100 years of this country’s history. In the democratic era since April 1994 individuals in the community continue to make a mark on the Political, Cultural, Business and Sporting landscape.
As fourth and fifth generation of Kholvadians in South Africa enter this millennium, the challenge to keep and maintain the traditions of the Madressa will be even greater. A natural progression will see the links to Kholvad, India diminish with South African Kholvadians and similarly in other parts of the world. The change is inevitable
and will be rapid over the next 50 years. The link to the Indian heritage will become more tenuous and fade. In South Africa Gujerati and Hindi languages is spoken by fewer young Kholvadians and even so in other communities. The affinity with the motherland will declines and has already ceased in some homes.
The next decade and beyond will define the MAIK’s role and define its strategy to retain its current position as the dominant institution serving Kholvadians in South Africa and the Kholvadians in the Village. The Canadian institutions have much closer family ties by comparison.
The Investments in South Africa are extremely well managed and the total structure and governance will ensure that the programmes that are in place will be supported for decades. Changes in the global economy have already impacted on our capacity to disperse funds overseas and as the economy in India changes it may have a bearing on future programmes. Rapid changes are going to require sensible new approaches and we are confident that the Madressa will respond to the new challenges as it has over 100 years.
Insha-ALLAH with the Benevolence and Grace of ALLAH SWT and through the wisdom and foresight of the pioneers, future generations are ensured to enjoy the opportunities. The leadership has held true to the constitution of the MAIK-SA and long may our leaders in future continue on the same noble path of service with integrity and Islamic Principles.