As the country prepares to celebrate Heritage Day on Friday September 24, the family of the late Imam Abdullah Haron are still waiting on a date for an inquest to hear how their father died after being tortured and murdered in police detention almost 52 years ago.
With a tremble in her voice, Fatiema Haron Masoet, the youngest daughter of the imam, spoke at the book launch of There’s a Hero before #123 – Stories of Imam Abdullah Haron at Al-Ikhlaas Academia Library and Resource Centre, in Lansdowne, on Saturday September 18.
“I am anxiously waiting to hear how my dad died,” she said.
The family did not attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings and had recently, together with the Imam Haron Foundation, mandated a law firm to investigate her father’s death and were working with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to find out how her 45-year-old dad had died after being tortured and suffering two broken ribs and 27 bruises.
He died on September 27, 1969.
Ms Haron Masoet mentioned families of slain activists like Ahmed Timol and Hoosen Haffejee who were also waiting for closure and justice to be served.
The Foundation was established in 2019, in the 50th commemoration year of the Imam’s death.
Foundation director Cassiem Khan encouraged those present to write their stories and quoted Nkosinathi Biko, son of Robben Island detainee Steve Biko, who died just before his 31st birthday on September 12 1977.
“Imam Haron was killed because he was a hero of his people.
“Imam Haron did not become a hero of his people because he was killed,” said Mr Biko during a Friday sermon at Claremont Main Road Mosque on Friday September 17.
Author Imam Mogamat Isma-eel Davids, from Crawford, who recorded the stories of neighbours, family, friends and worshippers at Al Jaamia Masjid, better known as Stegman Road Masjid in Claremont, explained the book’s title.
Imam Haron was detained for 123 days and that zero precedes this, similarly he was a hero before he died. The 50th commemoration campaign is known as #123.
“Relating stories via oral history is never easy,” said Mr Davids.
“Words change, dates get mixed up, events get muddled and people tire and parts are added, to ‘spice’ it up,” he added, recounting what he had written in the book’s introduction.
Mr Davids said writing the book had been necessary to voice the “ordinary” everyday person’s encounter and experience of the imam.
“The distance between us and him will widen, if we do not bring his life closer to the people who admired him,” he said.
In the book, he writes: “For he sat with the orphan, he drank tea from an old mug in a shack in the township, took food parcels to struggling families, taught the youth, made jokes, used his wit to educate and dealt with the ‘downtrodden’ of society.”
Mr Davids, who teaches at Habibia Primary School in Rylands, said his pupils were his first editors.
“I would give them pieces to read and also challenge them with a list of local heroes, to go home and come back to class with their grandparents’ stories of perhaps the imam, Ashley Kriel and Coline Williams,” he said.
Both from Bonteheuwel, Ms Williams, 22 was killed on July 23 1989 and Mr Kriel, 20, on July 9 1987.
“These were the legacies of people, the heroes, whom we attribute our heritage to,” said Mr Davids.
For a copy of the book, at R80 each, call 083 340 1433, 021 697 3890 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Imam Haron Foundation will be hosting its annual memorial lecture entitled “Amnesty. What amnesty?” on Monday September 27, at 7pm, via link https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vwsNZGKGTIG4Ohwpbcfr4A.
Speakers include Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, from African Court on Human and People’s Rights, Lukhanyo Calata, from the Fort Calata Foundation and moderator Farid Sayed, editor of Muslim Views.
For more information contact Mr Khan on 076 640 7928.