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Shafiek April: “A true giant has fallen”

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By Tauhierah Salie

The voice of a legend of the Cape Malay choir fraternity has fallen silent. Shafiek April, president of the Cape Malay Choir Board (CMCB) passed away on Monday night at the Christian Barnard Memorial hospital, at the age of 83. It’s believed Mr April had been hospitalised for a stent replacement in his arteries but had also tested positive for COVID-19. He was admitted two weeks ago.

Mr April dedicated his life to the promotion and preservation of the Cape Malay choirs, a cultural tradition that has spanned decades.

Mr April became the board’s delegate before his promotion to the secretary in the 1980’s, whereafter he became president in 1988 – a title he held for 32 years before his passing.

Mr April, always immaculately dressed

The son to Mr April’s predecessor, Nazeem Davids, said that a “true giant has fallen”. Davids, who had grown up in front of Mr April, said he played an influential role in his life.

“I can fondly remember in the 1960’s when the Cape Malay Choir board was at its peak, my dad never drove so Boeta Shafiq served as my dad’s secretary for 15 years. We’re going to miss him, definitely.”

The Cape Malay heritage forms part of South Africa’s many diverse cultures and is one Mr April was known and respected for.

“He was totally dedicated to the culture. In the last 10 years he practically spent every day doing something for the culture. He fought the battles against the City of Cape Town when the Goodhope centre was taken away. Everything he did was for this culture and his legacy lives on,” said Davids.

“He brought into existence the Nederland committee to restore the Netherlands liedtjie. He was progressive in that he appointed Mrs Faatima Abarahams as the first executive of the board. The toughest times that faced the board happened on his watch. Many choirs closed down because of finances and economics.”

VOC presenter Igshaan Higgins with Shafiek April (second right)

President of the oldest Malay Choir team Young Men, Abdurahman Morris, who worked closely with Mr April for over 30 years, said his passing will leave “a huge gap to fill.”

“He took the board and made it the largest of its kind in Cape Town and formed various committees to brainstorm various portfolios,” Morris said.

Morris pointed out that Mr April was a stern man that held moral values in high regard.

“In the meetings, things got quite heated but he always looked at both sides of the story. He was a stickler for meeting procedure, strict but fair. He may have strong words with you in the meeting but afterwards, he would never hold a grudge against you,” he added.

In terms of his character, Mr April was described as a very humble, caring, kind and fair man who never sought the limelight.

With the Cape Malay choirs serving as an outlet for creative and talented youth from the Cape Flats, Morris said Mr April was passionate about developing and nurturing young talent.

“I hope and pray that whoever succeeds him carries on that progressive manner of growing the board,” he said.

Mr April was internationally and locally respected in the arts sector, amongst minstrel organisations as well as within local and national government.

Over the course of his distinguished life, Mr April made enormous contributions to the founding and building of the state of the Cape Malay Choir Board. He was devoted to promoting the understanding between the CMCB, its affiliates and its service providers.

“On behalf of the Shoprite Jonge Studente, we offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Shafiek April and to the executive and the affiliates of the Cape Malay Choir Board. His legacy as a tireless advocate for persevering the Cape Malay Choir Board traditions, unity and peace will not be forgotten,” said Shoprite Jonge Studente chairperson Mr. Ahmad Ismail on Facebook.

Mr April was laid to rest on Tuesday afternoon and the janazah was held under strict Covid19 regulations.

May Allah SWT grant Mr Shafiek April the highest place in Jannah and forgive his shortcomings, Ameen. We make dua for contentment for his family, friends, colleagues and all those who loved and respected him in the fraternity.

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