The death of the former Alexander Sinton Secondary School principal and anti-apartheid activist Khalid Desai has left a void in the community.
Mr Desai, 80, died on Wednesday December 6. He had been battling lung cancer.
He became Alexander Sinton’s principal in 1976 – a time of great political turmoil and civil unrest. The school had become something of a community rallying point against the apartheid security forces and police stormed it several times.
Adiela Domingo, the current principal, said Mr Desai had been detained in 1986 after leading a march the year before against the state’s call to close 400 schools to quell the civil unrest.
Ms Domingo said Mr Desai, who resigned in 1994, had been very protective of his staff and pupils. She described him as a deep thinker who had been held in high esteem.
“He was a mentor and a motivator to many people including the school and the community. People trusted his judgement and his opinion. He always encouraged his staff to study further and always supported us and offered his assistance even though it was such a tough time,” she said.
She said he had been a natural leader, always leading from the front, never backing down.
“He allowed us to flourish and achieve our goals. He was always well groomed and was an intelligent man. He was always there for us. Even after he retired, his presence was always felt. We really feel saddened by his death,” she said.
Mr Desai’s wife, Janap, said her husband had always cared about others and had been a very giving man.
Testament to that, she said, was the soup kitchen they had started in 1997 to feed the community’s needy.
“He was a caring and loving man who always put others first and me on top. We never had any major arguments because we were very compatible. I feel terrible without him. I miss him so much,” she said.
Ms Desai said her late husband had enjoyed playing cricket and had been quite involved with the school’s athletics.