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Muslim Enclaves of the Cape: Newlands

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Heritage Day is a South African public holiday celebrated annually on 24 September. On this day, citizens are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.

For 77-year-old sports aficionado, Rushdi Majiet, who grew up in Newlands his heritage is intertwined with spending his days in plum trees, scoring tries on the rugby field and catching a ride on the horse-cart to madrassa.

“The mosque was a central communication point and all the youngsters would play in the back rows and the fathers, uncles and brothers would sit in the front and strain their ears to listen to the sermon,” chuckled Majiet.

Majiet explained how the elder generations would sit in the company of the iconic Imam Abdullah Haron. Imam Haron died in a police cell on 27 September 1969, after four months of solitary confinement and daily interrogations about his involvement in the struggle against the racist system of apartheid.

“There’s a major difference with the communities we have today and it further changed when we forcefully removed due to the group areas act,” said Majiet.

Majiet detailed how traditions have changed.

“Monday’s were fish day and the fish-cart would gallop through the streets, blowing a trumpet and on Friday we would pay for the groceries, after dad got back from work. That’s how everyone did it, we would buy our groceries on the bookie and then at the end of the week we would pay our dues,” smiled Majiet.

Majiet explained it wasn’t an easy life but it was a wholesome one.

“We were very sports orientated and if we weren’t play cricket or rugby, we were sitting in front of the radio listening to stories like the Man in the Iron mask. We stopped playing at the Newlands sports ground when apartheid came into effect,” stated Majiet.

Majiet detailed how the family dynamic has changed over years.

“A house did not just consist of mother, father, brother and sister. You had your aunty, great aunty and grandparents all stuffed into one home and having your own room was only a dream a child could have,” giggled Majiet.

Majiet added the Muslim community in Newlands was unmatched.

“Family ties were tight but the community bond was even greater and it did not just involve Muslims, it was Christians too. All faiths, we had the same outlook, morals and values. It was magical,” stammered Majiet.


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