President Cyril Ramaphosa used a Cape Muslim saying about reaching the peak of Ramadaan (“oppie berg” – the 15th day of the fast) as a symbol of the problems facing the country.
He was speaking at his first iftaar (the breaking of the fast), at the invitation of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), held at Tuscany Gardens in Rylands, on Wednesday May 30.
“There has been much progress made (in South Africa) since dreaming together in 1993, but I am the first to admit there are many challenges remaining,” he said.
In a speech read out by his deputy, MJC president Sheikh Irafaan Abrahams said Muslims had long fought against colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, helping to forge a government that now protected and respected their faith and culture.
But the Muslim community still faced challenges, he added, not least of which was the state’s continued failure to recognise Muslim marriages.
“Our marriages are not recognised thus our children are regarded as illegitimate. Even when we die, our death certificates reflect, ‘not married’.”
Sheikh Abrahams also lashed out at gentrification, saying it had driven up rates and taxes, forcing many to sell their homes.
“This uprooted our people out of the inner cities to far-flung areas. In Bo-Kaap, fourth generation inhabitants of their homes are forced to sell as they can no longer afford to live in the historic quarter.”
Sheikh Abrahams criticised the state’s land restitution programme, saying District Six had only seen 200 families of the 5 000 return to their home.
“The City of Cape Town is not, or refuses to, release land as they fear that property prices in the CBD will decrease if the construction of GAP housing is allowed.
“Over the past two weeks or so, land invasion has been more prevalent in Cape Town. We understand the frustrations and impatience of informal settlement residents and backyard dwellers – some of whom have been living in these conditions for more than 30 years. However, illegal land occupation has many consequences.”
Sheikh Abrahams appealed to the president to deal with the scourge of gangsterism, drugs, and the high crime levels and said there was a “desperate need” for a dedicated SAPS gang unit that was better equipped to “eradicate this plague from our societies”.
Unemployment was also at an “all-time high.”
Mr Ramaphosa said he felt “especially privileged” to be part of the Muslim community’s “most hallowed traditions”.
He highlighted the “enormous sacrifice” made by Muslims in fighting for a “democratic South Africa that is non-racial, non-sexist, non-sectarian, united and prosperous society”.
“It was people like Dr Abdurahman, Cissy Gool, Dullah Omar, Imam Abdullah Haron and Sheikh Nazeem Mohamed who ensured that Muslims were an integral part of the achievement and the construction of a free and democratic South Africa,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa pledged his commitment to “finding a solution” to legalise Muslim marriages, by using Muslim values and the constitution as guidance.
He said the ANC’s 54th conference last year had resolved to tackle corruption – both in public and private sectors.