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April 2006
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Notes From My African Diary
By A. W. Sadathullah Khan

It is common knowledge that Indians came to South Africa in two categories, namely as indentured Indians and as ‘free’ or ‘passenger’ Indians. The former came as a result of a triangular pact among three governments; and the latter, mainly traders ever alert to new opportunities abroad, came at their own expense from India, Mauritius, and other places. Muslims from India who have now settled in South Africa hail from Gujarat- a majority of them. Muslims have established schools, madrasas and mosques in all major towns. Villages and cities and where they could not establish Mosques they have built Jamaat Khanas for prayers. It was a pleasure to meet many Muslims from India who have made South Africa their home. They are hard-working, honest and have adhered to their Islamic principles. I have picked three from the pages of my African Diary.

Sky is the Limit

Abdul Sattar Dada is very simple and humble. He is one of the richest Muslim businessman in Botswana, owning private aircrafts. Sattar Dada is God fearing, generous and is involved in social and religious activities.

A primary school drop -out, he started his career as a salesman in a small business shop in a village called Kanye and then his foresight, dedication and integrity took him from one car agency to several agencies spread across Botswana and South Africa. He was a special nominated Member of Parliament from 1999 to 2004.He is currently member and treasurer of the Central Committee of the ruling party, Botswana Democratic party. He is also the President of the Botswana Muslim Association.

A Popular Face

Shamshad Khan’s family came to the South Africa border town of Botswana called Zeerust and completed his primary schooling at Zeerust and high school at Johannesburg. His father Mahmood Khan was born in 1930 and mother was born in Surat in 1943 and came to South Africa when she was just two years old. Shamshad’s great grandfather arrived in Africa in 1880 and way back in 1895, his grandfather Mehrab Khan settled in the country.

Shamshad with his two brothers and a sister had the roots of business in them as their father was as a small trader in general goods. In the year 1966 the family moved to Gaborone city, capital of Botswana, just one month before independence. The country gained independence on 30th September 1966. So the family was one of the earliest to settle in Gaborone

From a small cloth business, the family expanded in 1970 to a large business as ‘Trans African wholesalers’ and sold the business to a Hindu family from Gujarat in 1980.

Shamshad has served as Deputy mayor of Gaborone City from 1969 to 1974.

And between 1966 to 1980, he was very involved in politics, social, religious and sporting activities. He was chairman and executive of Botswana Muslim Association, Islamic Council of Botswana and Muslim Educational Society. He was the founder member of the Gaborone chamber of Commerce which later was named as Botswana Employers federation.

Shamshad is a popular choice for Botswana T.V for debates, interviews on the Palestine issue and other current national and international issues. He has given several talks on religious, current affairs and other various topics on Botswana Radio and other radio Stations. Shamshad also plays host to many international speakers and has also organised cultural programmes. He turns writer and has even .penned a brief history of the Muslims in Botswana. Total population of Muslims is around 10,000 and in Gaborone, there are around 5000 from different nationalities- Africans, Pakistanis and Indians. Upto independence, 95 per cent of the Muslims were of Indian origin and mainly from Gujarat.

His grand father, Mehrab khan has strived to get special permits from Pretoria, South Africa to send the Botswana children for studies. He was a prominent Urdu poet of South Africa. Shamshad’s father also had a taste for poetry.

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