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President shows keen interest in Tuan Guru biography

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At a recent dinner hosted by the presidency and attended by a small group of invited guests – including Awqaf SA – President Cyril Ramaphosa was gifted a copy of Shafiq Morton’s From the Spice Islands to Cape Town, the Life and Times of Tuan Guru.
The book, which reveals new facts surrounding Tuan Guru’s life at the Cape, has been received with critical acclaim. It is part of Awqaf’s Leaders and Legacies project.

Tuan Guru, who is Imam ‘Abdullah bin Qadi Abd al-Salam, was the son of a famous Indonesian religious judge and royal envoy from the spice island of Tidore. A memoriser of the Holy Qur’an and scholar himself, Tuan Guru was exiled to the Cape in 1780 by the Dutch East India Company on suspicions of collaborating with the English.

Whilst imprisoned on Robben Island Tuan Guru wrote, from memory, a copy of the Qur’an that he used to teach the political prisoners and slaves of Cape Town.

Tuan Guru – who is directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad – founded the country’s first madrasah, or Muslim religious school in 1793, which catered for the slave community and created the first inclusive, non-racial educational model in South Africa. Tuan Guru also established South Africa’s first mosque in Dorp Street in the Bo Kaap.

At the function, the President took a keen interest the book, and promised that he would read it. Arts and Culture Minister, Nathi Mtwetha, was also gifted a copy and promised Awqaf SA he would be giving his feedback.

Haroon Kalla, chairperson of Awqaf SA, spoke briefly at the gathering, saying that business, industry and civil society needed to work together to resolve the country’s pressing economic problems. He said everyone resonated with the presidency’s statements on this.

However, there needed to be an urgency in government to get things done. South Africa used to produce 40 per cent of the world’s shipping containers, but due to slow decision making, we had lost out on this lucrative market.

“Mr President, once you lose out, it’s extremely difficult to get things back,” he said, pointing out that since 2008, almost 400, 000 South African manufacturing jobs had been lost, and that manufacturing had declined from contributing more than 15% of GDP to just under 13% of GDP.

Kalla spoke about his new role as deputy president of the Manufacturers Circle, adding that new Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter, had served in this position. The Manufacturers Circle is a corporate association of manufacturers, which conducts research and engages with key stakeholders to encourage economic growth.

He said we should all work towards doubling our workforce in the next few years. He also praised the government’s efforts to set up a sovereign fund, something which would be an investment for the future of all South Africans. Kalla pointed out, though, that civil society had already been investing in a like manner for over 20 years, Awqaf’s waqf endowment funds a good example.

Kalla also announced that Awqaf SA, in conjunction with Adenco Construction and Kashief Wicomb, would be investing R200,000 in computer labs at needy schools. Their first project would be at the school Tazne van Wyk, one of the country’s most recent tragic victims of gender violence, attended. The lab would be named after her, he said.


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