Haron widow laid to rest on imam’s burial anniversary

Galiema Sadan Haron, widow of anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron, was buried in the same grave as her husband on Sunday September 29, exactly 50 years after he was interred.

She died in the family home she had built in Crawford, surrounded by her three children, Shamela Shamis, 68, Professor Muhammad Haron, 63, and Fatiema Haron Masoet, 56, at about 5.11am on Sunday. Her carer was Fatima Daniels, from Portland.

It was Ms Haron’s wish to be buried with her husband and arrangements for this were made ahead of his grave in Mowbray cemetery being declared a provincial heritage site.

Hours before her death, the children had been to an annual prayer meeting in the Imam’s memory at Stegman Road mosque, where the Imam had led the congregation, ahead of his arrest on May 28 1969.

“We already had a sense that she was gonna leave us,” said Ms Haron Masoet.

“The moment when the angels of death came to her a gust of wind came up at 4.45am which rattled the carport roof.

“We were up all night and I remember thinking, where did the wind come from.

“It was almost like the wind blew in the angels and I watched her face. She closed her eyes and there was the sense of purity, peace and serenity, which enshrouded her body,” she recalled.

The death coincided with the daily dawn prayers, which takes place about an hour and twenty minutes before sunrise.

“Her eyes closed when the muathien (caller to prayer) said Allah hu akbar (God is the greatest). I felt grateful to God for granting us this moment of experiencing her death.”

This was very different fromhow the family had learnt that their husband and father had died from notorious apartheid security branch cop dubbed “Spyker” van Wyk.

The imam died while in detention, without being in communication with any legal representative, family or friends.

Ms Haron Masoet said it had been important and most profound for them to witness their mother’s death.

“We were not there when he was tortured and with our father’s death. My sister was not in the country,” she said.

Ms Haron Masoet celebrated her 56th birthday on Monday September 30.

“It was important for all of us to witness my mother’s burial and for us to get some closure and experience everything, which was mostly denied to us with my father,” she said in answer to the unusual sight of Cape Muslim women at the graveside on the day of the janaaza.

Ms Haron Masoet said many mourners related and narrated being at her father’s janaaza, which was at their family home in Repulse Road, Athlone, on September 29 1969.

While Saturday was relatively hot, there were showers and a bit of thunder on Sunday.

Mourners compared this to another natural phenomena which took place when the Imam died. South Africa’s biggest earthquake in recent history, hit the Western Cape in 1969. The 6.3 magnitude quake claimed seven lives.

The couple married on March 15 1950 and had three children .

Ms Haron is survived by her children, 10 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

She was a private person, her husband’s financier and confidante.

The Haron family members have added their voices to those of the families of apartheid victims who have called for the reopening of 300 cases that were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for further investigation 20 years ago.

The imam did not have a will and according to the law at the time and still today, Muslim marriages are not recognised and his children were illegitimate.

As a result, Ms Haron and her children were forcibly removed from their home, in Repulse Road, Crawford, after her husband died.

Ms Haron learned to drive at age 43, and a white Mini was her first car. She then went to work at a personal dry cleaners in Claremont until age 78. She saved every penny and managed to fund the construction of her family home in Nico Avenue.

She had student boarders because Shamela was studying radiography in England at the time.

Ms Haron’s eldest daughter never returned home after her father’s death because her safety was in jeopardy. The authorities had thought she had knowledge of her father’s anti-apartheid dealings.

Ms Shamis still lives in England but returned for the various memorial programmes the family and the Imam Abdullah Haron Foundation had planned in remembrance of her father and in the pursuit of justice for his killing.

Ms Haron was frail and in need of full-time care.

The Imam Haron Foundation will be hosting a cultural tribute directed by Basil Appollis, The Imam and Us at the Artscape Theatre, on Friday October 11 and Saturday October 12, at 8pm. Tickets cost R175. For more information call Tasneem Khan on 074 114 2475 or book through Computicket.