The hearts of the Wintervelt community members are filled with joy as they look forward to a clinic that will serve critical healthcare needs. This comes after Amir Kulungile Raheem Nkumane announced that a community clinic will be built on the Umvelinqangi Winterveldt Jumu’a Masjid premises, writes NONTOBEKO AISHA MKHAWANAZI
QUALITY health care is crucial for a fully functioning community, and this has been one of South Africa’s shortfalls. People are often faced with having to wait in long queues only to be told that they should return the next day in order to get free healthcare services, and some cannot even afford to get to the health facilities, which are situated far from their homes.
The masjid became popular when it opened its doors for the homeless in Winterveldt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic around Pretoria. The masjid also offered to be a quarantine site in case the department of health needed one in the area.
Inspired by the vision of the late Mualimah Zainab Nkumane (may Allah grant her Jannah), the masjid serves as a contribution to the shift in the perception of Black Muslims by indigenous South Africans in townships. This vision, which was initiated in the 1980s, has blossomed into a beautiful masjid with a community centre that offers skills development, Quran studies, agricultural activities and counselling to a community with over 400 African Muslim families.
According to Amir Kulungile Raheem Nkumane, it took years of patience, persistence and prayers for the community to be where it is today. ‘We currently have a fully functioning masjid which has an extension where we offer sewing, agricultural and computer classes. We also have an in-house Quran boarding school where we are currently housing 20 students and are expecting three of them to graduate this year; a feeding scheme which feeds more than 250 people a day and we also offer counselling,’ said Nkumane.
He also says that when they submitted a proposal for the 2,7 hectares land to the municipality, which they have now acquired, they included a comprehensive plan listing attached buildings. With the clinic, which is under construction, as the key component, the plan includes a shopping centre as a waqf, a set of apartments, a school catering for grade one to grade 12 learners and an IT college. The shopping centre is already underway with four shops currently operating.
The apartments and the shopping centre are expected to generate an income which can help sustain the costs of running these entities and create job opportunities. The masjid is a product of the saying ‘A masjid built by the community for the community, makes the community content’.
‘When we initiated to build the masjid, all members of the community, including some entrepreneurs around Pretoria, were actively involved. Even though we had a lot of people making empty promises but with the grace of Allah, we are where we are today and are determined to achieve even more,’ said Nkumane.
He noted that among other reasons behind this initiative, a masjid is not just a place of worship but is also a place of safety, refuge, support, empowerment, happiness and cure, which is the culture Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practised and, as the ummah, we should be doing the same.
He believes that South African Muslims need to stretch masjid responsibilities a bit wider. ‘In particular, when you are living in a society like South Africa whereby there are so many socio-economic ills, the masjid is supposed to be a solution because Allah says all the masjids are for him,’ said Nkumane.
The clinic will be open to all who require healthcare, not only Muslims or South Africans, and will create more than 30 jobs, which will include home-based healthcare workers. ‘Our community also has elderly people who will find it difficult to walk to the clinic so we aim to buy bicycles and the hifdhul Quran students will go and deliver to those that cannot come to the clinic. This will also groom the students to not only be responsible citizens but to learn the importance of helping others in need. We also want to go to the extent of knowing whether each patient has food at home so that the medicine can be effective. It is pointless to give someone medication when they do not even have food to nourish the body. We also aim to get an ambulance that will also help us to save lives,’ said Nkumane. He added that they are trying to find a holistic way to deal with health issues in their community because a healthy community is a productive community.
Nkumane emphasised the importance of Black Muslims becoming independent. ‘Often, when we need something, we go to other races or other communities. It’s time that we too started establishing our own to help our own. When we speak about our community being the role models for other communities, we need to demonstrate that, and now I can tell you the Muslims of Winterveldt now have dignity, and Islam is no longer as foreign as before. It has now been accepted as the religion of locals as well. When we service the community, we try to involve both Muslims and non-Muslims,’ said Nkumane.
Professor Slindile Amina Ngubane, who is among the Black South African Muslim women who have played a major role in the development and growth of Islam in the townships, applauds the initiative taken by Nkumane and the Winterveldt Muslim community. ‘It is a positive move for not only the Muslim community but for the community at large,’ said Professor Ngubane.
She also said that some Black South Africans who reverted to Islam have become alienated from their communities because they now wear, eat and even speak differently. ‘Some take themselves out of community activities and isolate themselves; this to non-Muslim community members is seen as Islam being a religion that requires an individual to divorce from their own community. Again, as Black Muslims, we have nothing to prove but it is about how we can best propagate Islam through service,’ said Ngubane.
The clinic is due to be completed in the next six months.
An abridged version of this article was first published in the June 2021 print edition of Muslim Views.
Featured image: The Umvelinqangi Winterveldt Jumu’a Masjid jamaah during the announcement of the construction of the clinic by Amir Kulungile Raheem Nkumane. (Photo NKAZIMULO QAAIM MOYENI)