When Imam Abdullah Haron, a sports lover, was forced by the Group Areas Act to move from Claremont to Landsdowne, he built a first story veranda at his house that overlooked the City Park rugby field. City Park in the 1960s was one of the only privately-owned non-white sporting facilities. It was also used for public events – and ironically for the funeral of Imam Haron after his death in detention in September 1969.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Imam Haron’s passing, and to commemorate the imam’s love of sport, the Imam Haron Foundation and Awqaf SA, in conjunction with Primroses Rugby Club, hosted the Imam Haron Commemorative Rugby Festival at its Rosmead grounds this weekend.
Primroses, one of SA’s oldest rugby clubs, produced many star players during the non-racial South African Council of Sport (SACOS) era. The club has also produced Springbok players such as Eddie Andrews and Nizaam Carr.
Ahmad Albertus, Primrose youth convenor, hailed the festival, saying that the club had been struggling to host a community tournament.
“We are chuffed that Awqaf SA and the Imam Haron Foundation have given us the opportunity,” he said, adding that the festival was not about winning, but about social cohesion.
Chris Diedericks, head youth coach of Goodwood-based NTK, said his club was happy to be part of the festival that in the spirit of rugby united people from different backgrounds.
According to festival convenor, Fahmi Galant, the Imam Haron Commemorative Rugby Festival hosted over 200 players from seven clubs hailing from areas such as Paarl and the Cape Flats.
For Thabo Magugwana from the Manenberg Rangers under-19 team, the festival had proved to be fun, and an exciting chance to meet new people. “I very much hope they hold it many more times,” he said.
Tashreeq Moos, a member of Caledonian Roses under-15s, said he had enjoyed the festival and looked forward to meeting his newly-made friends again next year.
“I really enjoyed myself and also watching the other teams,” he said.
Awqaf Deputy CEO, Mickaeel Collier, said Imam Haron was not just a political activist who gave his life in advocating social justice, but was also an avid sportsman who played a significant role in non-racial sport.
“The three-day Commemorative Rugby Festival aims to promote social cohesion, and to give young players a sense of rugby heritage. The indelible legacy of Imam Haron as a religious leader, political and community activist – as well as an advocate of non-racial sport – serves as an example to all of us, and to our future generations,” he said.
On hearing about the passing of Imam Haron’s wife, Galiema, 93, early on Sunday morning, the organisers halted the games during the time of her funeral prayers.