Archive for July 2011
By Hassan Isilow
It is not an exaggeration for one to say that, the South African Muslim community is generous. It is the absolute truth. Members of this community are kind-hearted. And some have even gone to the extent of donating their last pennies, because they don’t want to see a starving neighbour or Friend. It’s very rare to find a community with such values.
This month, several humanitarian organisations made an appeal to the community to contribute funds to help the starving people of Somalia. I’m reliably told by friends working for some of these humanitarian organisations, that the response was good.
According to aid agencies up to 12 million people living in remote areas across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are faced with starvation. Most of the affected areas are inhabited by Muslims, which means they need urgent help especially now that the holy month of Ramadan is fast approaching.
Sheikh Farah, Director in charge of relief services for Africa Muslim Agency in Somalia, told me in a telephone conversation that his organisation was feeding close to 30,000 people every day. He said they had also distributed hundreds of tonnes of food Aid in different parts of Somalia since the start of the famine.
Meanwhile, Jane Cocking, a Humanitarian Director for Oxfam, recently said in a statement that this was the worst food crisis of the 21st Century. Jane expresses fears that large numbers of lives could be lost if humanitarian organisations, Governments and well-wishers did not immediately respond.
However, I must say that I’m impressed by the Solidarity of the local Muslim community. Last week, I attended Friday prayers at the Mayfair Jum’aah mosque in Johannesburg, where I witnessed real Muslim solidarity. At the entrance of the mosque, stood two huge blue drums written on “Donations for Somalia”. As I dropped in my donation, I asked myself when the two drums would fill with money. I stood a side to see how many people would contribute. I was excited to see thousands of people dropping in their donations. Later on Friday evening, I took a flight to Cape Town. A friend picked me at the airport and we drove straight home to Bellville –which is also known as “little Mogadishu”. While, in Bellville I realised that the local Somali community was also contributing funds to help their starving people in Somalia. Despite being refugees, the Somali community in the Western Cape generously contributed whatever they could afford to help their starving people. I’m told in just a few days the Cape Somalis managed to raise a huge amount of money. Despite their political and clan differences, the Somali community is known for being united during difficult times. On this note, I wish many happy returns to all those who contributed in helping the starving people of Somalia.
CAPETOWN- These two men seen here are among the thousands of homeless South Africans who live on the city streets. I found them along Blankenberg Street in Bellville at midnight this week. Theirs is another story of people left destitute, forced to live off the streets for years because they are unable to find work and have no relatives to take them in.
“Life is extremely tough. We pick left over’s from rubbish bins which we eat. At times, if we are lucky, well wishers give us clean food or money,” one of the men who identifies himself as Tupak, related. He said they use boxes as mattresses and plastic bags as their blankets. “It’s very cold at night, but we have no option. When it rains, we just sit on shop verandas until early hours of the morning.” Tupak said he thought the end of apartheid would improve the lives of poor South Africans, but very little has changed ever since.
“I thought things would get better with the independence of South Africa in 1994, but instead people are getting poorer. I expected to get an RDP house, but for 11 years I have waited in vain,” he lamented. To make matters worse on the streets, people assume that the homeless are mad or thieves who are a threat to anyone moving about at night. “We are on the streets because of poverty and unemployment. We are neither mad nor thieves,” he stressed.
However, with the approach of the holy month of Ramadan in two weeks, the men are optimistic that good Samaritans will provide them with enough food to eat and clothes to wear, as Muslim are known to be generous at this time. “I can’t wait for Ramadan, because during then Muslims offer us food, money, clothes and they are generally sympathetic towards the destitute and poor,” Tupak said.
In the interim, it is another cold night that the homeless will have to endure, exposed to the elements. There are currently several homeless people living on the streets of Bellville, with many more living under the bridge or seek shelter on shop verandas. This article was first published on http://www.vocfm.co.za
CAPETOWN-Ali Daud, a Somali shopkeeper, thought he would die when three robbers recently entered his shop in Delft and stabbed him several times on his right thigh. Speaking to Africa witness on Wednesday, Daud said he thought it was the end of the world for him. “The robbers stabbed me three times. I fell on the ground bleeding profusely. They mercilessly carried out all the items in my shop.”
Prior to the attack, local businessmen sent warning letters to foreigners, pushing them to close their shops in the township or regret the outcome. “I wish I had adhered to their warning. If I had, I could have spared myself the pain and trauma I suffered,” he said. In the attack he lost over R25, 000($3,400) in stock and was confined to a hospital bed for two months
This is one of many similar incidents the South African Media has reported of late amid growing concerns that not enough is being done by authorities to stem the tide of attacks. “Somalis are not doing businesses in the townships because of choice. We are there because it is cheaper to start a business compared to starting one in the Central Business District where the rent and start up capital is very high,” Daud Ali explained.
Sheikh Abdi Rashid Afi, chairperson of the Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCOB) in the Western Cape said attacks on Somali’s are usually initiated by local businessmen who are jealous. “Local businessmen can not stand the competition with the Somalis. Instead of competing for the market, they opt to hire gangsters to kill or loot Somali owned shops,” the cleric said.
Meanwhile, the Somali Retailers Association said over 25 Somali shopkeepers have been killed in the townships around the Western Cape this year. This appears to be part of co-ordinated attacks, targeting Somali shopkeepers through out the country. Earlier this year in the township of Motherwell in the Eastern Cape, 55 Somali owned shops were looted while three were burnt down.
Police spokesperson André Beetge said the attacks on Somalis were started by local businessmen. “We can describe it as business rivalry. People say businessmen in these areas were complaining of too many shops owned or run by Somalis and they were causing their businesses to close,” the police publicist revealed, emphasizing that the attacks are not xenophobic.
Despite the jealousy harboured by local businessmen, the foreign traders are favored by township residents because they sell goods at cheaper prices. “I prefer buying from Somali shops because they are cheaper compared to our locally owned spaza shops,” said Lerato, a resident of Mfuleni Township. She viewed the Somali spaza owners as people who have brought a service closer to the people. “I used to walk for a long distance to buy groceries, but now there is a Somali shop just behind my house,” she said.
By Hassan Isilow
Not every one has a heart for the community, but a group of dedicated persons serving in the Greater Mayfair safety and security (GMSS), community patrolling- deserve to be praised. Members of this group endure cold winter nights to patrol the neighbourhood. The community needs to appreciate their work. This week on Friday, a friend of mine, who is a member of the Greater Mayfair safety and security group, invited me to one of their training workshops. Although it was a cold Friday night, when we arrived at the training venue at the Johannesburg Institute of Social Services in Mayfair, several members of GMSS were there waiting.
I realised the community patrollers were devoted individuals whose aim was to ensure that the community becomes a safe place.
Smartly dressed in their blue Jackets with reflectors, they gathered in the main hall listening to a lecture given to them by Mohamed Cassim a legal consultant (paralegal), who lectured them on the legal aspects of using fire arms.
Cassim who has a wealth of experience in security and legal matters advised the patrollers to ensure that they always act with in the law while executing their routine duties.
I was impressed by cassim’s lecture and the spirit of unity I witnessed at this function. I think if more people volunteer to join neighbourhood watch groups such as GMSS, then we shall to some extent combat crime in our communities. The crime levels have slightly decreased in the Mayfair area ever since GMSS and other community patrollers started vigorously patrolling the neighbourhood. I must say I’m impressed by the good work done by GMSS. Some of their members include affluent members of society, businessmen, university students, police reservists, religious personalities among others. I must admit that I learnt a lot by attending the GMSS training session. After the training session was done, members were treated to a braai and drinks. Some Members of the Mayfair community who spoke to me expressed their gratitude to GMSS and the other community patrollers whom they said have helped reduce crime in the area. On my own behalf I congratulate GMSS, and all community patrollers for a job well done.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN -Somali nationals who have sought refugee in South Africa continue to live in fear. Hardly a week goes by without an attack on a Somali shopkeeper. Omar Sheik Mohammud, a Somali father of two is confined to a wheelchair after robbers shot him in his shop in Mfuleni Township- near Cape Town, 13 months ago. The incident left him paralyzed.
“I was shot in the back by my attackers and the bullet damaged my spinal cord. I hardly feel anything in my legs,” he said, this weekend, speaking from his home in Craven B, near Cape Town.
He said during the incident, the robbers cleaned out his shop. “After shooting me and my nephew, the attackers carried out all our stock and refrigerators. They did not leave even a match stick.”
The once successful businessman now depends on the generosity of the Somali community. “My family and friends have helped me during the past several months, but due to their own economic situation, they cannot afford to continue helping me. I request kind hearted people to come to my rescue,” the father of two appealed.
It is a bitter pill to swallow for Mohammud whose dream of seeking a better life for his family in South Africa has turned into a nightmare. “I’m still deeply traumatized. Whenever I recall what happened to me, I feel so bad. I can’t afford to pay my bills. I’m worried about what the future holds for me and my family,” he related.
At the same time, the once busy businessman has been confronted with the boredom of doing nothing at home. He reverently wishes to get back on his feet to support his family. A friend described him as a hardworking man who had many dreams. “All the dreams that my friend had are now shattered. All his dreams are strapped to that wheelchair, where he sits all the time,” he said as tears filled his eyes.