Dr Ram Saloojee’s death marks a great loss to the community of Lenasia, where he lived and worked as a doctor for the better part of his life, and to the broader liberation movement in South Africa.
Rashid Ahmed Mahmood Saloojee was an ardent cricketer and sports administrator; committed medical and health professional; dedicated civic, welfare and business leader; devoted Muslim religious figure and an inspiring ANC veteran and stalwart.
He was a prolific writer of letters, skilled public speaker and a popular critic, particularly in the early years of apartheid after the ANC was banned. He was fiercely opposed to the racist National Party, its underlings in the community, and its policy of separate development and racial discrimination.
Dr Saloojee was an ANC Member of Parliament (MP), Senator, member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (MPL), friend, husband, father and grandfather. He was a selfless, kind, caring, generous, compassionate, considerate and tolerant man. He was a gentle soul, a true and humble servant of the people.
His late wife, ‘Aunty’ Sara, would often complain to us about his long and strenuous working days. He never retired for the night before 1am and was at his surgery in the morning. In short, he was a workaholic in the service of his patients and the public at large.
Dr Saloojee was born on 24 March 1933. He was educated at the Ferreira Indian Primary School, Waterval Islamic Institute, Johannesburg Indian High School and Wits University.
In his long years of civic and political activism he served in over 100 statutory, sporting, welfare, educational, cultural, religious, medical, civic, business, community, professional and political organisations.
Among his more notable appointments were his leadership of the Lenasia People’s Candidates, chairperson of the Federation of Residents’ Association (Lenasia), vice-president of the Transvaal Indian Congress, Transvaal vice-president of the United Democratic Front, Vice-President of the Islamic Council of South Africa and an executive committee member of the ANC Lenasia branch.
Dr Saloojee was a visionary of his time. He played an instrumental role in the mid-1970s in discrediting apartheid dummy institutions with his People’s Candidates initially winning all the seats in an election for the Lenasia Management Committee, and then resigning en masse, proclaiming it to be a toothless body of the apartheid government and the Johannesburg City Council.
He actively supported the 1980s students’ boycott of classes and went on to become a prominent leader of the Congress Movement with Dr Essop Jassat, the late Ebrahim “Cas” Saloojee, Ismail Momoniat, Ama Naidoo, Samson Ndou, Mohammed Valli Moosa and Maniben Sita.
He was detained several times during the states of emergency in the late 1980s and banning orders restricted him to the magisterial district of Johannesburg. These intimidatory tactics of the apartheid government did not deter him from his political activism and leadership role in society.
Dr Saloojee had a remarkable ability to blend his civic, political, moral and spiritual activism. Even as he fought alongside leading figures in the national liberation movement, he never lost sight of mobilising and organising in his local community. He fought for social justice, religious tolerance and national liberation.
In 1993, he accompanied former president Nelson Mandela on an ANC delegation to Iran, France and Saudi Arabia and later attended several conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union during his parliamentary career.
Dr Saloojee was a recipient of a number of awards such as The Star Community Award, Lenasia newspaper The Indicator’s Newsmaker of the Year Award, the Lenasia Human Rights Achiever Award, the South African Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Award for Contribution to Medicine and Community Service, and the 75th Jubilee Medal, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand.
He is survived by his daughter and son, Yasmin and Mahmood, and their children. Hamba kahle Dr Saloojee. DM
Dr Ismail Vadi is a board member of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
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