The Abdulhay Ahmed Saloojee Trust has been established to investigate the concept of democracy, particularly as it appears in colonial or neo-colonial countries such as South Africa. This is considered to be especially relevant as across the neo-colonial world the question of democracy, in its various forms, has arisen as a subject of fundamental importance. Which type of democracy and which version is most suitable and adequate to meet the needs of society in its current phase of development? This is being examined, not only in Africa, but extensively in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
After the defeat of apartheid in South Africa there was a seemingly valiant attempt to adopt a version of “constitutional” democracy which has been propounded as the most advanced in its character anywhere in the world. Yet it has hardly yielded the results expected by the bulk, if not all of its population. This can be viewed against the background of demonstrations across the world against the limitations of liberal bourgeois democracy which are assiduously opposed by the agents of neo-liberalism. Ideas approaching socialist democracy are condemned and scoffed at with even greater vigour. Clearly, this is a matter that requires investigation and clarification for everyone, the intelligentsia and the working class included.
The trust therefore seeks to organise an annual lecture series in South Africa which addresses this critical question and the results of which can be widely disseminated to all those who should be interested across the country. To this end, sufficient funds have become available in the estate of Abdulhay Saloojee, as was his wish, to facilitate this project.
ABDULHAY AHMED SALOOJEE
Abdulhay Saloojee was born in India in November 1927 while his family was already settled in Johannesburg. He was brought by his mother to rejoin the family two years later. From his early youth he rebelled against the problems encountered by the Indian youth and joined in the efforts of those fighting for the provision of a high school. As a bright student he even taught groups of students anxious to reach and sit for exams at the matric level. By the age of fifteen he was already active in the Transvaal Indian Congress but found himself at loggerheads with some members and did not pursue this particular avenue.
He later enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to study medicine. Here he furthered his interest in the broader political struggle and was one of those who formed the Progressive Forum. This was an organ for radical political discussion at Wits which affiliated to the Non-European Unity Movement (later, the Unity Movement of South Africa), and also embarked political activities outside of the university as well. From within its ranks the Progressive Forum produced many who would play a prominent role in the liberatory struggle in South Africa. The Forum evolved into a branch of the Society of Young Africa (SOYA) when it was founded by the All African Convention (AAC). SOYA presented a platform for promoting political activism in the population at large and within other affiliates of the Unity Movement .
Not unexpectedly, The Progressive Forum attracted the attention of the state security apparatus, the “Special Branch”. Abdulhay was interrogated on numerous occasions and warned in terms of the suppression of Communism Act to cease his involvement. He defied these acts of intimidation.
Abdulhay graduated at Wits in 1950 with an MbChb degree. Previously he had obtained opportunities to further his studies at universities in Edinburgh and Nigeria. But he was always refused a passport to travel. In 1958 he established a practice in Zola Township in the medically starved area of Soweto. Despite being warned to remove himself as an “Indian” from this “black” township, he soldiered on and by 1965 it is recorded that his practice had a patient list of 10 000.
In 1957 he met and partnered with his wife to be, Edna Wilcox who was herself served with a second five-year banning order in 1964 which severely restricted her movements and political activities. In 1969, the couple then reluctantly decided to leave South Africa, which they could only do via “no return” exit permits.
In London, where they settled, Abdulhay carried on a successful medical practice. He maintained a keen interest in developments in South Africa and came upon the idea of establishing a trust to promote the examination of democracy in its varied forms. This never came to fruition in his life time and he passed away in April 2013. In keeping with his wishes, funds from his estate have been utilised to establish the Abdulhay Ahmed Saloojee Trust for an annual lecture by a prominent person on this subject.