When the leadership of the SA Coloured Peoples Congress withdrew from the Congress Alliance in 1966 on the grounds that their participation in a movement that entrenched Verwoedian racial stereotypes, under the guise of multi-racialism, was not reconcilable with the fight for a non-racial, Africanist socialist democracy where the colour of one’s skin or the shape of one’s nose would count for nothing. As “Coloureds” in the Congress Alliance they were expected to play second fiddle in the policy formulation and decision making structures; and the debate on the national question would not be entertained. Imam Abdullah Haron knew that the Azanian people had a bright future.
Nowhere in the progressive world were free people racially labelled as “Coloureds”. It was slave mentality of a high degree to accept to be cast into a racial mould, and then imagine that such nomenclature was correct and final in the just order of things. Led by patriots such as Barney Desai, Kenneth Jordaan, Bennie Bunsee, Cardiff Marney and others, the SACPC dissolved itself and some of its members joined the PAC.
They urged so called Coloureds and people of Asian descent to break free from the shackles of racial slots and ethnic divisions, and to form solidarity with the African people in a non-racial democratic nation building effort. They had come to agree with the PAC from its foundation position that San and Khoi descendants were African people.
The Imam Haron was inspired by this visionary leadership and he found that their views resonated with his own life experience and political outlook. He was aggrieved by the forced removals from District Six and the insults heaped upon his folks to keep them down with self limiting beliefs and negative victim images. Once he decided on what to do, nothing could hold him back.
The life of Abdullah Haron is written in a book titled The Killing of the Imam: SA Tyranny Defied by Courage and Faith (Quartet Books, London, 1978). It is not easily accessible in South African bookshops and public libraries because lily-livered local publishers refuse to do a reprint, and the schools and universities are in denial that such heroes – other than the conventional new government types – lived among the people of South Africa.
As champions of a noble cause, patriotic heroes display with their lives concepts such as selflessness; devotion to duty; a sense of responsibility; discipline, determination and dedication; and the ultimate personal sacrifice to die rather than betray those with whom you worked. The Imam Abdullah Haron’s name should be engraved in the national merit orders of South Africa. But inexplicably he is not. The day when those who acted collectively as the agents and levers of change decide to write their own story, the name of the Imam Abdullah Haron will find pride of place in the national annals of history.
By Jaki Seroke