CAPE TOWN – For the first time in their history, South Africa Muslims heading to poll stations will find the name of a Muslim leader on the ballot paper, competing at the top of the country’s first Islamic party.
“We went to different towns. People attacked you. They shot you down. They booed you. You said wrong things. On DVD it sometimes looks stupid, but it’s all a learning process,” Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, the founder, director and chairman of Gift of the Givers humanitarian organization told Cii Radio on Tuesday, May 6.
Known as a renowned humanitarian activist who is lauded for the work done through the much-lauded Gift of the Givers, Sooliman joined politics as the head of the country’s African Muslim Party (AMP).
The party, formed only two months before 1994 vote, has gone through many challenges to participate actively in the then newly born democracy.
The new beginning was not an easy for all parties.
“People who selected (office bearers) insisted that I had to be the leader. I was very unhappy about that. Anyway, we did as best as we could. I was totally inexperienced, didn’t know how to debate at that time, how to discuss, how to fight (politically),” Sooliman told Cii listeners.
“We all knew that if something was not done, the country could have gone up in flames like it’s happened in so many countries around the world,” the founder and chief executive officer of the Gift of the Givers said of the 1989-1994 transition phase.
As South Africa marks 20 years of freedom and readying for May 7 polls, Sooliman, who was recognized as one of 500 world's most influential Muslims in 2009, urges his compatriots to vote.
“The worst thing to do is to say you’re not going to vote. You can only change your own situation by voting – and that’s the law of any country. If you’re not happy with what’s happening – change the system, put somebody else.” said the former AMP leader.
“You have a democratic country – you now have a right to choose what you want or who you want and the only way you’re going to do it is not by sitting at home and crying about it but by being active and going forward,” observed this humanitarian and former politician.
Twenty five million South Africans headed to poll stations on Wednesday, May 7.
Nearly 2,000 military personnel will help oversee 22,263 voting stations in the country's fifth election since the end of white minority rule.
President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) is widely predicted to crush 28 rival parties nationally, though it seems likely to fall short of a two-thirds majority.
Muslims make up some 1.5 percent of South Africa’s 49 million-strong population, according to the CIA fact book.
The AMP also contested the 2004 elections, again without success.
The African Muslim Party is not the only Islamic party to jump into the election fray in South Africa.
In 2008, Al-Jaamah Party was established to contest in 2009 general elections.
Last March, both parties decided to join forces to unite South Africa Muslim voters under one banner and rise as a new political force in Western Cape province.
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