Tribute to MAIK Officials

Goolam Hoosein Ahmed Bhabha served MAIK for 33 years between 1942 and 1975. He also served the Central Islamic Trust (CIT) for 10 years. After the tragic death of Ahmed Timol in detention in October 1971, Bhabha was instrumental in collecting funds for his close friend Hajee Yusuf Timol, for the inquest into Ahmed’s Timol. His role in the building of the Azaadville Jaamia Masjid, the first in the suburb, has to be acknowledged and given due recognition. The adjacent community hall, the G. H. A. Bhabha Memorial Hall, is named in his honour. He initiated the building of the hall and Madressa with the assistance of Yusuf ‘Essop bhai’ Saloojee and others. Saloojee guaranteed the funds for the completion of the Masjid, Madressa, and the hall.

Goolam Bhai worked closely with Ahmed E. Khota (Quarter) and Goolam Areff in the immigration of Kholvadians to Canada in the early 1970s. He was involved in conflict resolutions amongst families and notable in arranging the marriage of approximately 60 couples. Goolam H Bhabha will be remembered for his impeccable dressing and the trademark red carnation flower he pinned on his jacket. His sudden death whilst performing HAJJ in Mecca in December 1975 was a shock and loss to the community.

MC Essop Bhabha is known for having addressed the United Nations General Assembly on South Africa’s apartheid legislation He did this with no formal education or training.

Abdul Hamid Chothia was born in 1924 and after completing high school at the Eurafrican Training Centre in Vrededorp, memorised the Holy Quraan within a period of 11 months. He then went on to the University of the Witwatersrand where he obtained a Bachelor in Commerce degree and later was the owner of City Sweet Wholesalers. He was actively involved in MAIK for 30 years serving as an Honorary Secretary and Chairman.

His service with MAIK ran concurrently with the Central Islamic Trust (CIT) where he was an executive member alongside Ebrahim Dadabhai, Goolam H Bhabha, Abdul Samad ‘Chummy’ Mayet, and Abdul Haq ‘Checker’ Jassat. He had a great love for sport; he played cricket and was a secretary for the City and Suburban Cricket Union during the 1950’s and 60’s.

Chothia was a very enterprising man and in 1960 ventured into the travel industry when he bought Saleys Travel from his close friends MS “Chummy” Mayet and A H “Checker” Jassat. Chothia together with Sheikh Booley (Cape Town) was instrumental in booking charter flights to Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Samad Dangor was born on the 17th April 1927 in Sheepmoor, a small town nestled between Ermelo and Piet Retief. He was sent to Kholvad, India to attend school where he matriculated. His family settled in Standerton where he managed a business.

Abdul Samad Dangor was born on the 17th April 1927 in Sheepmoor, a small town nestled between Ermelo and Piet Retief. He was sent to Kholvad to attend school where he matriculated. His family settled in Standerton where he managed a business.

Samad was a go-getter and chose to move to Ermelo to work for the Dindar family, where he was promoted to bookkeeper of the company. After a stint running a linen factory in Johannesburg, Samad joined Sun Life of Canada which was taken over by Liberty Life. His success as a consultant was phenomenal and he worked for the company for over forty years.

Samad was deeply committed to serving the community. When he arrived in Johannesburg he joined the Transvaal Indian Congress and served on the Boards of several Non- Government Organizations such as Johannesburg Indian Social Welfare Association (JISWA, later JISS), and The Central Islamic Trust (CIT).

Dangor was elected to the Board of the Kholvad Madressa and played a key role in managing the Investment Portfolio and chaired the Kholvad India Committee. His service to the Madressa spanned over four decades. He was also a fervent supporter of the anti-apartheid movement.

Samad was a sociable and energetic man. He was an avid cricket and soccer player, and was well respected and loved in the community.

Suliman Mohamed – “Kholvad’s Minister of Education” and Amina Desai.

SM Desai was born Kholvad in 1901 and arrived in South Africa aged 10 after the death of his father. He was always very proud that he had run errands for Mahatma Gandhi during the time Ghandi spent in Johannesburg. Desai was sent to London to study law, but before he could be admitted to the bar, he had to return to South Africa due to the death of his uncle.

He was an office clerk for a short time until he opened an office of his own in Johannesburg. He served as Chairman of MAIK in 1944 and 1945. During this period, SM and Hajee Timol initiated the formation of the Kholvad Welfare Committee and it raised much needed funds for the ongoing drought disaster in Bengal. The National Committee that was set up formed the Bengal Famine Relief Fund of 1943. That meeting took place in the boardroom at Kholvad House. Thousands of pounds were raised and a cricket match that was played at the Old Wanderers raised another one thousand pounds.

He took a unilateral decision to do away with honorary posts of officials in Kholvad and in their place appointed Mr Ismail Ahmed Kara as a paid manager. Kara vindicated Desai’s bold decision and SM’s recommendations and subsequent approach to the Baroda State Education Department to administer and secure a suitable building for the school in Kholvad was declined.

He was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and Congress Movement. SM like his friend Gandhi was vehemently opposed to violence as a means of struggle. SM was strongly anti-sectarian and deplored Muslim/Hindu divisions.

In 1953, after a near fatal heart attack he moved his business from Kholvad House to Roodepoort and he withdrew from participating actively in politics. He famously designed the original Watson label that was known as ‘Dr Watson’ for Searle’s, a shoe manufacturing company. This label became the best seller. SM Desai owned an agency for Watson shoes and after his death in 1969 his wife Amina assumed control of her husband’s business and ran it for the next 35 years.

Amina Desai (wife of SM Desai) was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). She engaged in the passive resistance campaign against the apartheid government. She had studied at Harvard College, Johannesburg and qualified as a very competent secretary, having mastered touch-typing, bookkeeping and Pitmans shorthand. The Desai home was an environment that encouraged education, debate and discussion on the state of politics and the community in South Africa. It was in this home that Ahmed Timol and Jo Jo Saloojee found expression for their ideals and hopes of a just society

When Ahmed Timol was arrested, Amina was also detained at the John Vorster Square Police Station for over 5 months before appearing in court. Amina was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. She served most of her sentence alongside the longtime ANC stalwart Dorothy Nyembe, and for a short while with Winnie Mandela, whose defiance and courage she greatly admired. She was released in 1978; by then she was South Africa’s longest-serving Indian woman political prisoner, and was placed under a banning order and house arrest for a further five years.

Amina’s husband, SM Desai was also owner of an agency for Watson’s shoes, a large local brand. When he died in 1969, Amina immediately assumed control of her husband’s business, undeterred by being a woman in a male-dominated profession, and ran it successfully for the next 35 years.

Due to poor health Amina left South Africa in 2004 to be with her children in the UK and Ireland, where she passed away in June 2009. Amina was posthumously awarded the Order of Luthuli in silver 2012 by President Zuma.

Abdul Haq ‘Checker’ Jassat’s father, Mohamed, arrived as a textile merchant from Kholvad to seek his fortune in South Africa. Abdul Haq was born in Bethal on the 27th April 1915, and was later sent to Kholvad for his early education. It was there that his love for his ancestral village was born and this trip later inspired him to uplift Kholvad; and to bring the spirit of community life prevalent in Kholvad to South Africa. He returned from India by ship and after short stays in Sophiatown and Auckland Park, the family settled in Pageview, popularly known as Fietas. Fietas was known for its sense of community, reminiscent of the spirit of the Indian villages.

He married Khadijah Dinath in 1937 and worked initially as a travel agent and then as an insurance consultant. His home in 16th Street Vrededorp was a transit place for numerous families coming to Johannesburg, and his generous hosting endeared him to countless members of the community.

Checker was one of the founding members of the Crescents Cricket Club. He was a medium-paced bowler who often bowled several consecutive maiden overs. In 1953 he wrote an article on cricket in the South African Cricket Magazine. It was titled “Quo Vadis! Checker had already the foresight to anticipate that sport could not continue to be played separately by Indian, Coloureds, Africans and Malays. In 1956/57 he was elected as the Treasurer of the Johannesburg Inter-Race Cricket Board. By 1958 the inter-race boards formed the national non-racial South African Cricket Board of Control (SACBOC). The Kenyan Asians Cricket team toured South Africa in 1956 and Checker was made manager of the team in all three Tests.

He was also one of the founders of the Central Islamic Trust (CIT) in 1956 and an Executive Member of the Talimul Islam Masjid and Madressah Trust (Vrededorp). He served both organizations with distinction for over 40 years.

He was elected onto the Board of the Kholvad Madressa and served in various portfolios, as Chairman of the Board, Secretary, and Chairman of the Scholarship Committee. He was noted for his very careful, balanced views on all matters and his report on India after visiting Kholvad was thorough and eloquent. He worked as a director at Saleys Insurance Agencies until his retirement in 1981. He passed away on 15 June 1992.

Ahmed Khota (Quarter) sailed by ship to South Africa in 1940 at the age of 12. The world was at war. Four months later a ship which had left Bombay was torpedoed by the Japanese. The Kholvadians on board the ship who drowned were Dawood Bhaila (second youngest of the Bhaila Brothers), Mrs Bhyat (Molvi Tikly’s sister) and her infant daughter and late Bhoolabhai Vania (brother-in-law) Ismail Cajee. Ahmed “Chummy” Bhyat, of Roshnee, who managed to hold onto a piece of timber, was rescued after three days.

Quarter went to school for 2 years in Ermelo and left after completing standard 4, he worked in Ermelo, Schweizer Reineke, and later as a young boy in Vereeniging for Wadee & Company. Being Quarter, he wanted more excitement in his life. He left Vereeniging for the City of Gold, Johannesburg. Here he joined his Uncle (later to become his father-in law) in the business ‘New Reef Wholesalers’ which was situated on the ground floor of Kholvad House. Because of his great sense of humour, he became a very popular young man in the area.

He was a close friend of Ahmed Kathrada (Kathy), who at that time lived in Kholvad House. Through this friendship, Quarter was exposed to politics and was introduced to Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Molvi Cachalia.

Quarter worked hard to send money to his parents in India. He eventually secured passage for them to South Africa, where they settled in Ermelo.

Around 1947/1949 he travelled by ship to India and married his first cousin, Ayesha Pelwan-Kajee. They returned to South Africa and lived in Kholvad House for many years where they had their first two children Mohammed and Reihana. Two more children, Nafissa and Yahya were born after the family moved to Orient House on Becker Street. Yumna and Mohamed Geewabhai, whom he raised effectively as his own, joined them in this household.

In the early 60’s, he was more heavily involved in politics, and was arrested and spent 6 months at the Rosebank Prison. During this time Quarter, Babla Saloojee and Ahmed Bhabha shared cells next to each other. He was thought to be the last person who spoke to Babla, through a wall, before Babla’s death in detention

After his release, Quarters father-in-law, Bhai Pelwan and the late Ebrahim Dadabhay motivated him to join MAIK. Quarter served on the Board of Management from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. In 1964 Quarter assisted his Uncle, Mosie Moolla and others to escape jail and flee into exile.

After the death of his father-in-law, he decided to venture into business on his own. He opened a curtaining factory in Fordsburg. During this time he also opened two toy stores called Joe Marsh & Company.

Quarter made contributions at informal meetings of the Board and played a very important role in the activities of the Madressa. As an active board member he raised funds to help pay for school uniforms, fees and other basic needs of children of political detainees. He played an important role in building classrooms in a school in Soweto and in the establishment of a Bursary Fund for black students at the University of the Witwatersrand.

He was instrumental in raising funds and assisted those Kholvadians who had migrated to Canada. The Board sent him to India in the early 90s to oversee MAIK’s activities. He was also instrumental in collecting funds for the renovation of the three Mosques in Kholvad.

Quarter was a person who was committed to helping others as much as he could. His family always said, “He would borrow from Peter to help Paul and forget about himself and his family along the way.”

Goolam Mohamed Ahmed Khota arrived in South Africa in 1947 as a trained bookkeeper/accountant. He attained a diploma through a correspondence college based in London. Khota was one of a few “non-white” bookkeepers in the 1950s and 60s. There was limited training in accountancy and bookkeeping available to Indians at the time and many young men received basic training from Khota at no charge. This “schooling” was unique as Khota compensated the students for assisting in completing clients’ books. Along with Timol, Abdul Kader Cajee, Shantilal Mistry, Dawood Bham, Ebrahim Gitay, Abdul Rehman Fajender, Rafique Khota, Cassim Chothia and Ebrahim Wadvalla were among the many that were taught by Khota. Many of the students went on to become successful businessman in practice.

‘Goramota or GMA’ as he was popularly known was a genial man who was much sought after by businessman for his expertise and even travelled by train to various towns in the then Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga, to manage their accounts. Khota practiced for over 50 years until his death in 2004. (Partial extracts from: Timol –A Quest for Justice)

Dr Hoosain Moosa Kotwal was born in 1925 in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, and in 1937 went to Alighar, India, to study matric. Here he excelled in the debating society, and in sports, becoming a boxing champion. After completing his medical degrees at Lahore Medical College and his housemanship in London he returned to South Africa in 1951, opened a practice in Kliptown and then Standerton where he was elected Chairman of the Jamaat. He married Sarah Bhaila in 1953 and was elected chairman of Madressa Anjuman Islamia of Kholvad in 1954. In 1959 he and his family settled in Cape Town.

HM Kotwal was a keen observer of global events. He intently studied developments like the rise of communism and apartheid, World War II and the partition of India and applied his understanding of the Quraan and Sunnah in his analysis of these events.

He had a strong Islamic upbringing from his parents, Moosa and Rukaya Kotwal, and remained committed, not only to his vocation as a medical doctor, but also to society in general, giving generously of his time and resources to help those in need.

Dr Kotwal initially became involved in the work of the Islamic Welfare Society at a time when he derived inspiration from people like Allama Iqbal. However, his main contribution as community worker came with the establishment of the Muslim Assembly in 1967. It was under his leadership that the organisation achieved the following: Islamic education from preschool level to adult classes, madressa teacher training, study groups, curriculum design, etc. ; The Athlone Trade Fairs and children’s day programmes; the establishment of the Muslim Prisons Board; the Establishment of Islamic Council of South Africa (ICSA); contribution towards Muslim Personal and Family Law; acquiring the first hearse in Cape Town to improve burial services; the establishment of the South African Haj and Umrah Council (SAHUC); the building of Strandfontein Youth Park; the establishment of Muslim Social Welfare Service; and invitations to prominent Muslim scholars such as Dr Fazlur Rahman and Dr Ishtiaq Qureshi.

His pivotal role in the Muslim Assembly made him a renowned figure in the community. He was particularly concerned with the marginalisation of Muslim women and always strove to redress the prevailing inequalities and prejudices in the community. His moral earnestness and spiritual magnetism inspired many, particularly as speaker and contributor at conferences, the erection of mosques, and other community structures.

Dr Hoosain Moosa Kotwal, President of the Muslim Assembly (Cape), passed away in Johannesburg on Friday December 18, 1998. (Source: Moosa Vallie Ismail, Executive Director of the Assembly, Muslim Views, January 1999)

Mohammed Hussain Essop Pahad “Baboo” was born in Carolina on 22 March 1936, the eldest son of Essop Pahad and Fatima Bhabha. He attended school in Bethal and came to Johannesburg to attend high school. He registered at the “Congress High School” in Fordsburg and after matriculating with a University exemption, enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand for a MBBCH Degree. During these difficult years he had to abandon his University studies to work. In 1962 he married Amina (Dinath). In 1963, Haroon their only child was born. He was elected to the Board of MAIK in 1968, and served until his demise in 2007. As Secretary he was thorough and meticulous. As Chairman he was fair and ensured that the policies of the Board remained clear and principled. He was particularly passionate about the scholarship programme as it stemmed from his own personal experience of having to cut short his University career. He served as Chairman of the Scholarship Committee for several years and was a member of the Investment Committee.

His visit to Canada to meet representatives of Kholvad organisations was marked by a commitment to bringing about a co-ordinated international body to widen the support base of the Kholvadian’s, especially the youth.

A kind compassionate and caring person his affable personality endeared him to all those who worked or served with him.

Salim (Dhari) Tilly was born in 1934 in Klerksdorp. He then lived in Ermelo and Nigel before settling in Azaadville. He was a man of astounding qualities who had immense compassion and mercy for fellow human beings, regardless of race, colour, creed, or caste. He is best remembered for his cheerful disposition and his efforts in uniting ties between families.

Salim bhai served on the Board of the Madressah Anjuman Islamia of Kholvad with great passion and enthusiasm. Whenever there was a need to collect funds for any special relief programme he would travel throughout the Transvaal and raise money. He also dedicated time each year to collect Zakaat funds for distribution to families in Kholvad, India. He also contributed to the Vorah Society in India, and in 1969 some recall how he risked his life to save many people during the flash floods in Makkah.

One incident illustrates the selflessness of Salim bhai. One morning during suhoor (Sehri) In Nigel an intoxicated man knocked on Salim’s door. The man was lost and unable to find his way to Springs. He unfortunately was in no condition to understand the directions, so Salim Bhai left his Sehri, got into his car and had the man follow him all the way to his destination.

Salim bhai spent his last few years in Nigel and is remembered as a legend of the Kholvad community of South Africa. He passed away in January 1997.

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Madressa Anjuman Islamia of Kholvad South Africa

Madressa Anjuman Islamia of Kholvad South Africa