In what is a proud moment for the Cape Muslim community, the late Dr Achmat Davids has been conferred with a posthumous National Order of Ikhamanga in Silver 2019 by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The National Orders are the highest awards that the state president bestows on citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have contributed towards the advancement of democracy and who made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans. Dr Davids’ guardian son Shahim Davids accepted the award on behalf of the Davids family in Pretoria on Thursday.
Considered the “doyen of “Cape Malay Studies”, Dr Davids was an influential historian, researcher, linguist and author. Chancellor of the National Orders, Dr Cassius Lubisi noted his excellent contribution to the field of literature and the preservation of history through storytelling.
“His body of works enriched our understanding of the Cape Muslims’ contribution to the development of the Afrikaans language,” Dr Lubisi told the audience.
Fondly known as ‘Apatjie’, Dr Achmat Davids is seen as an icon of the Bo Kaap community. The educationalist gave a voice to the religious, cultural and racial identity of Bo-Kaap in his many books and research papers.
Dr Davids’s major contribution is his rereading of Arabic-Afrikaans texts in terms of the Islamic reading practice of tajweed. The researcher traced the emergence of Afrikaans a’jami texts, Afrikaans texts written in Arabic script and distributed or published at the Cape of Good Hope, since the early nineteenth century. Through this, he was able to determine what early Afrikaans sounded like. During his research, he discovered a fascinating relationship between the Afrikaans language and the literature of the Cape Muslim community.
He was also instrumental in the social welfare of the community and was key to the establishment of the Boorhaanol Movement to whom he had dedicated most of his adult life.
Many people will also recall Dr Davids as one of the pioneers of the Voice of the Cape radio station, where he also served as programme manager.
Many believe his contribution to the history of Cape Town is undervalued and the award is long overdue.
Speaking to VOC Drivetime, Shahim Adams said ‘Apatjie’ would have been ecstatic that he received an award of this magnitude.
“For us, it’s a momentous occasion because we lost him at a very important time in our lives. He worked so hard to show people that you don’t need a degree to do research work.”
VOC presenter Shafiq Morton, who had served as programme manager with ‘Boeta Achmat’, said he had been a “guiding spirit of my interest in history.”
“I used to listen to him as he sat behind a typewriter in the kitchen in his vest as his sister’s prepared food. It was Boeta Achmat who told staff members they didn’t have to talk for the queen,” he recalled.
“When we were managers no one knows how hard he fought for the welfare of the staff, at great stress and expense to his health.”
Boeta Achmat had been a caring and nurturing mentor to all staff during some difficult days at the time of VOC’s inception.
“Apatjie taught me why we should be proud of the way we speak Afrikaans in the Cape,” said presenter Yusuf Fisher.