Activist leaves legacy

Dr Anwah Nagai was laid to rest this week.

Tributes have poured in for anti-apartheid activist
Dr Anwah Nagia, whose passing has been described as a big loss.

Dr Nagia’s janaaza took place at the Muir Street Mosque in Zonnebloem on Tuesday September 29, after he died on Monday.

Life-long friend Judge Siraj Desai said Dr Nagia underwent by-pass surgery after suffering a mild heart attack.

While recovering in hospital, he contracted the coronavirus and died after a short battle.

Dr Nagia, a human rights activist, businessman and philanthropist was the director of the Al KAAF Human Rights Centre and founder of the Palestine Museum in Cape Town.

Dr Nagia and Judge Desai’s friendship span over 40 years.

The two met in high school in the 1970s and managed to maintain their friendship.

Judge Desai said they shared a common vision on issues that arose and worked on many projects together, while still pursuing their own careers.

“He become the chief executive officer of an asset management company but never lost his footing in the community.”

He was passionate about issues of land and housing and worked on many other housing disputes besides District Six,” he said.

District Six and what they had achieved, had however, been a big accomplishment, Judge Desai said on the pair’s efforts on campaigning to keep the ground open for claimants and the progress made on this issue.

He later dedicated his time and efforts to the human rights centre and continued his tireless efforts advocating for the rights of Palestine people, Judge Desai said.

Community-based charitable organisation Awqaf SA described Dr Nagia as an icon and stalwart of human rights who fought bravely for the rights of the oppressed globally, irrespective of race, religion, or nationality.

Awqaf SA board of trustees chairman, Haroon Kalla, said he was a father, brother and comrade-in-arms who had been in the trenches, fighting for the freedom of the oppressed in South Africa, Palestine and wherever people were suffering injustice.

“Anwah lived by the slogan of committing ‘class suicide’ in order to ensure the upliftment of the oppressed. As such he was a great friend and advisor to Awqaf SA and supported our many projects. He was a fearless advocate of societal development and the protection of the vulnerable and marginalised.”

Mr Kalla said even during the Covid-19 pandemic Dr Nagia advocated for the rights of the poor where he launched the “1 Million Free Fabric Face Mask” campaign in collaboration with Awqaf SA, the World Memon Organisation, Black Business Council – calling for free face mask distributions across the country.

“While we mourn the passing of Anwah Nagia we take solace in the life of a freedom fighter who lived his life to the fullest as an excellent example for all to emulate. His deep concern for humanity, his gentleness and humility is unparalleled in today’s world. South Africa will not be the same without this moral voice of reason and truth.”

In a statement the Claremont Main Road Mosque said they were saddened by Dr Nagia’s passing and said he would be remembered as a vociferous campaigner for Palestinian rights, leading many solidarity marches in Cape Town.

“Dr Nagia was a philanthropist extraordinaire and well-known for his passionate commitment to social justice,” the statement read.

Salt River Heritage Society secretary, Lutfi Omar, said as a young man Dr Nagia chose service to others above his own needs. “He saw injustice as an unnatural aberration and stood only for what was and is the truth. A fearless compassionate and giving human being.”

Mr Omar said his resolve to keep the issue of Palestine on the global agenda and having the courage to lay the foundation of the Palestine Museum was indicative of the deep care he had for a nation under siege. “Dr Nagia will always be remembered in so many organisations that cared for and catered for the needy.”

Judge Desai said his friend’s loyalty was his most admirable quality and said he could always pick up the phone and count on Dr Nagia. “He was very loyal to his friends and we would always defend one another. It enriched my life to have him in it,” he said.