IT was an emotional day in court on Thursday November 10, during the inquest into the killing of Imam Abdullah Haron. CASSIEM KHAN reports.
THE foot soldiers of the Apartheid regime were encouraged to serve and protect the state by any means necessary. They were commended for telling lies and claiming easy victories over their victims. They colluded, connived and conspired not as a necessity or aberration but as their best professional practice. These operatives were not a few rogue elements; they were the essence and foundation of the rogue state they swore their allegiance to protect. Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity for this and many other reasons.
The nature and success of apartheid indoctrination that ‘white is right’ is still so deeply embedded in the psyche of the masses that they cannot yet fathom that a white-dominated state was, in fact, a criminal enterprise.
If this is difficult to comprehend, then or for a moment, imagine a 12-year-old boy hearing your mother being informed that she should send someone to fetch her husband’s body. His dead body was found naked, battered and bruised, lying below two other corpses.
This father was Imam Abdullah Haron. The mother was Galiema Haron.
On the fourth day (Thursday November 11) of the inquest into his death in detention, his children Shamela and Muhammed had their moment in court to tell Judge Daniel M Thurlare what they had experienced since the time of his arrest, his burial and the many years of sadness and emotional distress. The criminals that governed South Africa under a policy of apartheid inflicted pain and suffering on the family of Imam Haron.
They try to remember their father’s hugs, smiles, generosity and warm embrace from which they drew their safety and strength. For 53 years, they struggled to make happy memories of their father dominate, but the painful excruciated memories continued to overwhelm them until they were left cynical and broken.
Shamela started her testimony and spoke of a jovial father that wanted the best education for his daughter.
Despite being an Imam, a serious position in Cape Muslim society that regarded music and cinema as frivolous past times, Shamela said the Imam enjoyed both.
The Imam would have a weekly ‘date night’ where he took his wife to the cinema. He bought Shamiela a piano and decorated the balustrade of their home with musical notes. He named his home after the James Bond movie Golden Eye. He would put people at ease by joking, smiling and laughing.
Much of her testimony was about the letters the Imam smuggled out of prison. The letters were addressed to Imam’s PAC comrade, Barney Desai, and Shamela, both residing in London at the time.
In both letters, Imam Haron speaks of being imprisoned for a ‘good cause’ and that he has not divulged any information.
In her testimony, Shamela told Judge Thulare that she wanted justice for her father and to see the 1970 inquest overturned.
Professor Muhammed Haron had written a Masters thesis on his father’s life, death, and its impact on the community. He is a Professor of Religion but has a multidisciplinary research impact and has published widely.
Unlike Shamela, a homemaker living in London in a community that does not know her illustrious father, Muhammed is well-known and has travelled widely but is almost always introduced as the son of the martyred Imam Haron. For many, this would be a badge of honour to be displayed proudly and even abused for personal gain and glory. It is an honour for Muhammed to be the son of a man who loved his son so dearly.
And in his testimony, he honours his father by telling the court how they, as a family, have deliberately not engaged in activities for personal gain. But every time his father’s name is mentioned, the demand for justice for his father is present, whether verbalised or not.
There was also the need for answers to life’s many mundane questions a boy in his early teens would need his father to answer. As a scholar of Arabic, he would have wanted to converse with his father in this language which they both knew. As a public intellectual, he would have benefited from his father’s life experience and wisdom. In court on Thursday, many of those present saw an emotional side of Muhammed, breaking down several times.
Muhammed and Shamela paid homage to their mother’s dedication to raising them. This is despite her losing her home.
Judge Thulare commented on this and suggested that legislation to address this problem of widows losing their family homes must be developed and that he would suggest the legislation be known as the Galiema Haron Bill.
If apartheid perpetrators of crimes thought they would destroy the families of political detainees by killing the fathers, they had to contend with formidable mothers. Galiema Haron, Nontsiki Biko and Nomonde Calata, to name a few widows, raised sons like Muhammed, Nkosinathi and Lukhanyo, respectively, who chose to collaborate and coordinate their activities to advance their fight for justice through the Apartheid-era Victims Families Group.
Muhammed requested Judge Thulare to note that:
- The findings of the 1970 inquest were and remain highly problematic and unquestionably inaccurate.
- The furnished tangible evidence that the Imam ‘fell from the staircase’ caused his death is not only a pack of legal lies but outrageously absurd.
- The Special Branch members involved in the Imam’s death be – posthumously or not – found guilty of intentional torture and calculated murder.
- The judiciary and the medical team be posthumously stripped of their qualifications for having compromised their oaths of honesty since they reached unacceptable decisions; and, in addition to that, their acts, which should be publicly pronounced, amounted to unprofessional conduct that is punishable.
- The circulated report be used as a good example of total inaccuracy; the fresh findings should not just declare it as an erroneous report but an untenable text in the post-apartheid/post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission era.
- Lastly: the High Court should reverse the defective decisions that the ‘incompetent’ magistrate made and the flawed arguments that the ‘useless’ medical team presented.