In a bid to preserve the history of the Cape icon, Imam Abdullah Haron’s gravesite and the Al Jamia Masjid in Stegman Road Claremont has finally been declared as a heritage site. Heritage Western Cape (HWC) made the declaration this week, following a public participation process held two months ago. The announcement is significant as it coincides with the 50th year commemoration of Imam Haron’s death.
The stalwart political activist was killed at the hands of the apartheid security branch in detention at the Cape Town central police station on the 27 September 1969. He was buried on the 29th September at the entrance of the Mowbray Muslim Cemetery. In attendance at the declaration was Muhammed Badr Hassen-Parker, who was 16 years old at the time of the Imam’s passing. Upon request of his late father, he arranged for Imam Haron to be buried in this easily accessible prime space demarcated for their family.
“The security police were in the graveyard having dug a grave for Imam Haron in an obscure place. There was a genuine fear on the 29th September 1969 that the security police will come at night and re-bury Imam Haron, but then the earth tremor shook all of Cape Town, with its epicenter in Tulbagh. It is for this reason that Imam Haron is always spoken about in relation to the tremor. Many continue to believe that the tremor took place because of the killing of Imam Haron,” said Cassiem Khan, the chairperson of the Imam Abdullah Haron Foundation.
Imam Haron spent 15 years as the imam at the Stegman road mosque which was seen as an open space for the expression of political views. Khan said Imam Haron used the place of worship “to transcend political, religious and racial barriers”.
“The mosque is over 100 years old, but the 15 years of Imam Haron at the helm was its golden era. We hope that the mosque and the gravesite will next be considered for national heritage status and place on the liberation route,” he said.
The process came about following a discussion with the Western Cape Government Department of Culture and Sports in early January 2019. The Foundation started and completed this process in less than 8 months.
HWC chief executive Dr Mxolisi Dlamuka said the two sites are important historical and heritage landmarks which highlights the contribution of the Western Cape to the resistance and liberation history of South Africa.
“Imam Abdullah Haron is remembered for having been involved in the liberation struggle in order to bring about change and social justice in South Africa,” he said.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) said it was grateful and honoured by the confirmation by Heritage Western Cape on the declaration of these two locations as heritage sites.
“We are glad that the hard work put in by a variety of organisations and the motivations put forth by ourselves and others, have resulted in this excellent news during heritage month,” said MJC deputy president Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie.
In its submission to the Heritage Western Cape, the MJC said the mosque holds significant historical value for Muslims in the country.
“It is at this mosque and from this pulpit that one of the most promising Muslim leaders and political activists, Imam Abdullah Haron served the oppressed masses against the Apartheid regime during the dark days of Apartheid. Whilst the Group Area Act uprooted the community, the masjid remained the centre of inspiration to this vibrant community,” the ulema body wrote.
Khan said the heritage declaration is an important first step in for its future work on memory and history. The foundation has identified other sites such as the Maitland Police Station where Imam body was found, City and Suburban Rugby Stadium where his funeral service was held, his last home in Repulse Road and his home in Claremont from which the Group areas act evicted his family.
“We have certainly learnt a lot and wish to play a greater role in heritage declaration of spaces particularly related to faith and the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid era struggles of our people. We would like to share our experiences with other families, groups and individuals,” he said.
While the Haron family and the foundation is elated with the decision, it has also urged that wheels of justice are turning far too slowly for the victims of apartheid era crimes. Khan said they are keenly awaiting the Minister of Justice to announce the re-opening of the inquest into the killing of Imam Haron.
Khan said they hope this announcement will come before the 27th September 2019, which also marks the end of the # Imam123 Days campaign to remember the days Imam was imprisoned and the day he was killed. VOC