Loss to Midlands, city and sport

2012-03-19 00:00

FORMER Msunduzi City councillor Kisten ‘Pops’ Chetty died at his home on Saturday afternoon after a sudden illness.

Sympathisers streamed into the family home yesterday as Chetty was well-known in sporting, business and political circles. He was a stalwart of the non-racial sports struggle, a pioneering businessman who paved the way for the Raisethorpe CBD and a long-standing member of the African National Congress (ANC).

Chetty’s parents ran a wood and coal yard. He and his late brother Nine Chetty helped grow the family business to include the transport of sand and stone. They built the landmark Taj Hotel in Greytown Road and grew the business into the Taj Group of Companies. It was Chetty’s support and commitment to non-racial sport that have earned him some of the highest accolades. Chetty was a member of the South African Soccer Federation Professional League (SASFPL) which was part of non-racial sporting body the South African Council of Sport (SACOS). He and his brother owned Real Taj Football Club. Chetty’s close friend and fellow SASFPL executive member Jasper Vurden said a highlight of this period was when Real Taj won the Osmans Spice Trophy for beating top team Santos.

Chetty was part of the soccer federation from 1960 to 1990 until it merged with the National Soccer League (NSL). He went on to serve on the executive of the NSL for five years. He continued his involvedment with football by becoming a founder member of the SA Federation of Soccer Legions — a body formed to honour players and officials who were part of the non-racial league.

He chaired Legions for the past two terms and last month was re-elected to the position for a further two years.

The Taj Hotel was the centre of Sacos activities where both professional and non-professional sporting clubs held meetings. Local members of the sporting fraternity said that while he was involved in the professional league, he remained a strong supporter of amateur sport in the city and was particularly supportive of the Midlands High School Sports Association.

It was through his involvement in non-racial sport that Chetty got involved in the political struggle. He was part of a Natal Indian Congress-led delegation that met the ANC in Lusaka in 1988. He served two stints as councillor in the Msunduzi Municipality. He was first elected ward councillor for the ANC in 1996 and chaired the Economic Development Committee.

He is remembered for his pioneering work in addressing the issue of informal trading in the city. Unfortunately his initiative was not continued when he did not return to council after the 2001 election.

He returned as an ANC PR councillor in 2006 and remained in office until 2011. He was once more a member of the Economic Development Committee. Council official, David Gengan, who worked closely with him, said Chetty had a very good rapport with both officials and councillors.

“He was the only portfolio committee chairperson who would hold a year-end function for all the officials that interacted with his committee, an event he paid for himself.

“He really went out of his way to build bridges between councillors, officials and the community,” Gengan said.

He remained a committed member of the ANC and party members all say that despite the falling out in ANC circles as a result of Msunduzi going under administration, he never spoke badly of any individuals or the organisation.

Party members at the eThekwini elective conference were told of his death and observed a minute of silence at the start of their proceedings yesterday.

Deputy Minister for Co-operative Governance Yunus Carrim described Chetty as a committed, consistent councillor, with a strong orientation to his constituency. Carrim said that although he was not a councillor any more he continued helping with council issues. “He met me just two weeks ago to again raise issues relating to the pensions and exit packages of ex-councillors whom he was assisting,” he said.

“But more than a politician he was a community figure. A successful businessman, he gave back a lot to the community, and never seemed to forget his roots.

“I knew him from a distance as the famous owner of the Real Taj Football club, and our paths first crossed in the early 80s in SACOS. He was humble, easy-going, and very interested in his country. I liked most his enthusiasm,” Carrim said.

Chetty leaves his wife Manor, three children and 13 grandchildren.

Pops Chetty’s funeral takes place today at the Truro Hall in Bombay Road. His body will lie in state from 10.30 am and thereafter at 3 pm will proceed to the Mountain Rise Crematorium.

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