Tue, 04 Aug 2020

Fifty years after the death of Muslim cleric and anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron, his grave and the mosque of which he was once at the helm have been declared Western Cape heritage sites.

But his family and foundation have one wish that has not yet been realised - answers to what happened the day he was killed while in police custody in 1969.

"We are keenly awaiting the minister of justice to announce the reopening of the inquest into the killing of Imam Haron," Iman Haron Foundation co-ordinator Cassiem Khan said.

"Many of the perpetrators involved in his killing may have passed on, but we want the record put straight in legal and historical records, as well as the imagination of people: it was murder."

Haron was killed on September 27, 1969. He was detained incommunicado for 123 days.

"The apartheid state got away with their version that he died of injuries sustained after falling down [a flight of] stairs. This is inconsistent with bruises and injuries to his body. No one was prosecuted for this - the inquest that followed at the time was a sham," Khan said.

"It is time for this process to be revisited and reviewed."

Lawyers representing the family and the foundation have been working with the National Prosecuting Authority, Khan said, and a trajectory specialist had been sent to establish what could have happened the day Haron died.

'Earth tremor shook all of Cape Town'

He hoped that an announcement would be made by the minister before September 27, which marks the end of their #Imam123Days campaign which sought to highlight the number of days Haron was imprisoned and interrogated, as well as the date he died.

Heritage Western Cape on Monday gave Haron's gravesite, at the entrance of the Mowbray Muslim Cemetery in Cape Town, heritage status.

He was buried there on September 29, 1969.

"Present at the declaration was Muhammed Badr Hassen-Parker. He was 16 years old at the time and, upon request of his late father, he arranged for Imam Haron to be buried in this easily accessible prime space demarcated for their family," Khan said.

"The security police were in the graveyard, having dug a grave for Imam Haron in an obscure place. There was a genuine fear that the security police will come [that] night and rebury Imam Haron, but then [an] earth tremor shook all of Cape Town, with its epicentre in Tulbagh.

"It is for this reason that Imam Haron is always spoken about in relation to the tremor. Many continue to believe that the tremor took place because of the killing of Imam Haron."

The Al Jamia Masjid in Stegman Road, Claremont, has also been declared a heritage site.

'Liberation route'

"This mosque was the base of operations for Imam Haron for 15 years. It was here where he showed what it meant to transcend political, religious and racial barriers," Khan said.

"The mosque is over 100 years old, but the 15 years of Imam Haron at the helm was its golden era. We hope that the mosque and the gravesite will next be considered for national heritage status and placed on the liberation route."

Other sites, such as the Maitland Police Station where Haron's body was found, City and Suburban Rugby Stadium where his funeral service was held, his last home in Repulse Road, as well as the house in Claremont from which his family was evicted under the Group Areas Act, have also been identified by the foundation.

"We have certainly learnt a lot and wish to play a greater role in heritage declaration of spaces, particularly related to faith and the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid era struggles of our people. We would like to share our experiences with other families, groups and individuals," Khan said.

Seven years ago, the City of Cape Town also approved the renaming of a section of Lansdowne Road - between Turfhall and Palmyra roads - to Imam Haron Road.

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