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South African author and activist who led a life of courage, compassion and integrity

Few Indian South African girls have completed wider public reputation than writer, human rights and cultural activist Zuleikha Mayat, who gave up the ghost on 2 February 2024. An honorary doctorate from the College of KwaZulu-Natal was once simply one of the awards bestowed on her right through a existence that spanned nearly 98 years.

Mayat was once a outstanding pioneer, evocative creator, public speaker, civic employee, human rights champion and philanthropist. She was once a staunch supporter of Palestinian freedom and an finish to Israeli apartheid and genocide.

I’m a pupil of social justice problems in South Africa and feature recognized Mayat for 49 years, thru my friendship together with her youngsters. I assisted her together with her final guide, and recently penned an e-book about her incredible life.

She embodied principled, faith-based, socially dedicated, impressed management in accordance with particular skills and indomitable resilience, and upheld the respect of all with whom she related. In an interview in 2019 she stated that she was hoping to be remembered as “somebody who interacted with everybody, regardless of who they had been, with out prejudice”.

Early existence

She was once born on 3 August 1926 in Potchefstroom in South Africa’s North West province, the third-generation kid of Indian-South African shopkeepers of Gujarati origins. In a rustic marked by means of racial divides even earlier than the arrival of apartheid in 1948, she learnt from her grandfather – as she later wrote – that intermingling throughout social divides and bounds was once necessary, as was once “finding out the languages and folkways” of different social teams.

Her father was once beneficiant to deficient other folks and drummed into her, she later reflected, that “others have a percentage in our earning”. For her “the Bounty of God is not only for a choose few however will have to be shared” so that every one “can get advantages”.

The younger Mayat learn voraciously however racialism stifled her formal training. After grade 6 on the Potchefstroom Indian Govt Faculty there was once no secondary faculty for Indians. Segregation (1910-1948), the precursor to apartheid, which legally entrenched racial classification and enforced segregation in all walks of existence, intended separate faculties for various “races” and the colleges for whites would now not enrol her.

Patriarchy additionally performed a task. She was once one among seven siblings; boys, like her 3 brothers, endured secondary training in different cities or towns “but sending daughters away was almost unheard of”. And, so, her ambition to transform a physician was once thwarted.

A tender Zuleikha Mayat.
Courtesy of the Mayat circle of relatives, Creator equipped (no reuse)

At age 14, as described in her 1996 guide A Treasure Trove of Memories: A Mirrored image at the Reviews of the Peoples of Potchefstroom, she found out that she “had a present as a creator, an highbrow orientation, and a capability for expressing robust perspectives”. A correspondence path boosted the “English by which (she) would come to put in writing” prolifically. Later, she completed a certificates in journalism.

A letter to the editor

1944 was once a turning level. An 18-year-old Mayat posted a letter signed “Omit Zuleikha Bismillah of Potchefstroom” to the newspaper Indian Views, which was once revealed in Gujarati and English. The editor was once M.I. Meer, father of human rights activist and pupil Fatima Meer. He revealed the letter, by which she “argued for upper ranges of training for women” in a “taste that exposed now not just a principled hobby regarding this topic but additionally her sharp wit”.

In 1954, elderly 28, she invited pals to her small condo within the coastal South African town of Durban. After supper, the Women’s Cultural Group was once based. It sought to mobilise girls for social trade.

Fatima and her husband Ismail Meer roped Mayat and her husband Mohammed into their progressive actions. Whilst hiding from the apartheid government, activist and long term president Nelson Mandela slept on the Mayat house a couple of occasions.

In 1961, she edited the well-known Indian Delights, a recipe guide, which flew off the bookshelves “like hot samosas at a buffet”. A number of new editions were revealed and it stays one of the most highest promoting books in South Africa lately.

Between 1956 and 1963 Mayat contributed a weekly column to Indian Perspectives. Her column, Fahmida’s World, introduced what lecturers Goolam Vahed and Thembisa Waetjen have described as her “signature liveliness and humour, in addition to a pointy ethical eye, to undergo on more than a few subjects”.

In her columns, she criticised social hierarchies, “ethnic and sophistication prejudices” and racist and inhuman habits, and commented on “the moral triumphs and breaches of day by day existence”.

Mayat was once serious about a large number of establishments and organisations. Those integrated the McCord Zulu Clinic, Shifa medical institution, Black Ladies’s Conference, South African Institute of Race Members of the family, the Natal Indian Blind Society, and faculties, previous age houses and mosques.

And, during her existence, she wrote.

A lifetime of writing

In 1966 she compiled Quranic Lighting, a guide of prayers. Nanima’s Chest seemed in 1981 to advertise the appreciation of conventional Indian textiles and clothes.

A Treasure Trove of Memories: A Mirrored image at the Reviews of the Peoples of Potchefstroom (1996) recounts rising up and existence in her house the city. South African pupil Betty Govinden called the book “crucial contribution to autobiographical fiction on this nation”.

Historical past: Muslims of Gujarat was once revealed in 2008, the results of “internal urges” that pressured her to probe into her circle of relatives’s far away previous.

A yr later got here Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabehn: The Letters of Zuleikha Mayat and Ahmed Kathrada 1979-1989, in accordance with 75 letters exchanged between herself and anti-apartheid massive Ahmed Kathrada that coated tradition, politics and faith.

Then in 2015 she revealed Journeys of Binte Batuti, a commute memoir. And at age 95 Mayat revealed The Odyssey of Crossing Oceans, a captivating and expansive narrative by means of a consummate storyteller, which embodied a few of her philosophy of existence.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair, holding a South African flag and draped in the colours of the Palestinian flag, is flanked by a man and a woman

Zuleikha Mayat at a pro-Palestinian march in Durban in early 2024.
Courtesy of the Mayat circle of relatives, Creator equipped (no reuse)

Justice and peace for all

Publish-1994, when democratic elections had been held for the primary time in South Africa, Mayat endured her combat for fairness and social justice. She spoke out and marched towards native and international injustices.

She was once acutely conscious that for plenty of the sector was once an inhospitable position. She sought, like Nelson Mandela, “justice for all”, “peace for all” and “paintings, bread, water and salt for all” – for other folks to be “freed to fulfil themselves”.

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