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Dr Anwah Nagia: SA loses a colossal figure in human rights activism

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A giant voice within the Cape Muslim community has fallen silent. Dr Anwah Nagia, one of Cape Town’s foremost human rights activists, businessman, philanthropist and a champion of the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. died at the age of 62 years old on Monday. He has spent the past month battling COVID-19 in hospital, following recent heart surgery. His death has sent shockwaves through South Africa – and his death will leave a huge void within the Muslim community.

Dr Nagia will be best remembered as an unapologetic, passionate, and unwavering campaigner for the Palestinian cause. He has been involved in numerous Palestine solidarity campaigns and projects aimed at restoring the dignity of disenfranchised communities. He was a pioneer of the District Six restitution process – having the led the District Six Beneficiary and Redevelopment Trust for decades.

Close friend Shafiq Morton said Dr Nagia was the most humble, compassionate, empathetic, kind and understanding people he had ever met.

Dr Nagia was a notable intellectual and polymath, with a brilliant knowledge of history. Morton described him as a “deep thinker” who was in touch with contemporary thought and history.

“He could talk to you about political theory, economics and Islamic finance…whenever you had a discussion with him it was always such an uplifting, energising experience,” said Morton.

He added that his legacy will be the Kaaf Human Rights Centre and Palestine Museum, a project tremendously close to his heart.

A resolute and fearless Palestinian supporter until the end


ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte expressed her condolences, saying South Africa had lost a dedicated community activist and leader.

“He was part of the breed of struggle heroes unmoved on his principals and the fight for social justice. He in every way represented the views of the marginalised people of South Africa during apartheid and Palestine. We sincerely pray that his legacy lives on. From God we come and unto God we return,” she said.

ANC MP Faiez Jacobs said Dr Nagia was a “beacon of light” as he never relented in his pursuit for a better life for others. He had used his vast experience and influence to ensure the most vulnerable are cared for.

“At the start of the Covid19 pandemic, Dr Anwah ordered 4 million masks to be distributed to impoverished communities on the Cape Flats. This was type of human being that Anwah was.”

Mickaeel Collier from Awqaf SA said his death is a great loss to our community.

“He was our father, brother and comrade in arms. He was in the trenches fighting for people in South Africa, Palestine and all over the world, where there was injustice. The responsibility is on all of us to take his work forward.”

Dr Anwah Nagia hosted Palestinian runners at the Palestine Museum in 2017

Attorney and community activist Seeham Samaai recalls being mentored by Dr Nagia as a student in the late 1980’s. Through the fervent activism of Dr Nagia, she had been exposed to learning about gentrification and other socio-economic issues facing the poor and marginalised.

“We lost a revolutionary. It’s important that we carry the baton and continue his work in gentrification and fighting for the poor and working class.”


Dr Nagia, attorney Igshaan Higgins and Abdurahmaan at a Bo Kaap street boeka


Besides his activism work, he was a well-respected businessman and entrepreneur. Dr Nagia was the chairman of Element Investment Managers and several other companies.
In the NGO sector, he served as chairman of the Mustadafin Foundation, which is one of the largest relief and feeding schemes in the country.

Dr Anwah Nagia hosted 13 Palestinian runners at the Palestine Museum in 2017


Dr Nagia’s work in the arena of land, development, the built environment and other socio-economic issues took him to many countries, where he had delivered lectures.
In 2004, the dedicated activist received an honouree doctorate together with the National Minister of Education Mrs Naledi Pandor in recognition for work involving community and technology.

Dr Nagia’s passion for uplifting communities stems from his work in the late 1980’s, where he was responsible for setting up learnerships for adult basic education in the clothing factories. In the mid 90’s he was the deputy chairman of the Western Cape Nursing Council of South Africa and has been involved in the protection of Woodstock and Somerset Hospital for the continued use of those facilities for the communities.

May Allah SWT grant Dr Nagia the highest stage of Jannah and accept all his endeavours. May his lifetime of activism be his legacy and be a source of inspiration to others. We make dua that Allah SWT grant solace to his wife, children, family and friends, Ameen.

His janazah will take place on Tuesday 29th September after Thuhr salaah at the Zeenatul Islam Mosque in District Six.



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