By Zahraa Schroeder
After lengthy legal battles, the Knysna Muslim Council (KMC) has laid its foundation and cast the roof of its long-awaited masjid in Rawson Street – the very first in the famous coastal town. Situated directly in the city centre of Knysna, the aim of the masjid it to be at the heart of the town’s growing Muslim community – serving as a spiritual pinnacle for locals and travellers alike.
Set behind a shopping mall, the masjid will be easily accessible to over 350 people, a vast improvement from its current capacity of 110 people.
Phase one of the building plans include the construction of the ground floor, the setting of a firm foundation and cement roof. Phase two includes ablution facilities and toilets.
While it is impossible not to relish in the great strides the KMC is making, it is also hard to ignore the trials faced. The issue of accommodating the numerous Muslims in Knysna, set the KMC on a mission to find a new spiritual ground. Yet, to their dismay, there was a shortage of property plots in the town for sites of worship – sparking a 12-year dilemma that would test the limits of their patience, their willpower and their faith.
After two years of searching, they landed upon a private space in the Knysna CBD – but the long list of challenges had just begun.
“We started investigating various options in the surrounding townships and suburbs for land sites. This exercise took us two years of engaging with the municipality, provincial and national government. Some of our masajid all over the country, like in Gordon’s Bay, know the problems with rezoning. This whole exercise took us four years. But alhamdullilah, we overcame all of this,” he recalled.
Next, was convincing the Knsyna Municipality that the building was necessary and would prove to be within the interest of the community, all while defending themselves against the body corporate of a nearby building called the 22 Rawson Street Homeowners.
While the Knysna municipality approved the rezoning of the vacant plot for development in 2015, residents cited concern over the availability of parking‚ traffic congestion and the noise factor among some of their objections. In 2017 the matter was taken further up, in hopes that the Western Cape High Court could resolve the issue.
Essa commented that while their plea to the Court was being processed, their previous place of worship had become a logistics nightmare – pushing the KMC to keep their heads as they treaded through the paperwork and procedures.
In April 2017, the Cape High Court had ruled in favour of the Knysna Muslim Community for the construction of the mosque. Judge Daniel Dlodlo dismissed with costs, the application by the 22 Rawson Street residents to set aside the approved construction of the place of worship, allowing construction to begin in September 2018.
“After the court ruling, we had to get the building plans approved. The approval usually takes 3 – 6 months but for us it took a year….so this was also a challenge,” Essa related.
“Sometimes I can’t believe we got this far. I firmly believe that it’s through the duas of the broader Muslim community that we made it this far.”
The eastern stairs to the mosque
Essa said that they aim to complete the entire structure by the end of the year, hoping that it can be used to its fullest during the school holidays.
The organisation’s struggle to obtain necessary funding was still prevalent and that if they were unable to receive the necessary funding, construction of Phase Two would have to halt until the necessary funds were gathered. However, the construction of Phase Two, toilets and ablution facilities has begun.
Essa thanked every person who donated towards this effort but appealed to people to assist where they can.
To assist with funding or for updates on construction, call him on 083 413 6156
or WhatsApp 082 386 4329
Donations via banking are welcomed
FNB Cheque account: 621 6840 5176
Branch code: 210 214