The passing of Essop Haffejee

2009-09-18 00:00

YUSUF Haffejee, the eldest son of the late Mahomed Haffejee and Mrs Haffejee, died yesterday after a brave and dignified battle against cancer. He was 68 years old.

Yusuf Haffejee, known to all his friends and relatives as “Essop”, spent most of his life fighting; first against racial oppression and then against the new rulers in this country who, according to Essop, had betrayed the noble aims and objective of the centuries-long struggle against racial oppression and economic exploitation.

From his high school days he was called “Prof” because of his knowledge on a whole range of matters outside the ken of his peers. The pursuit of knowledge remained with him until the very end of his life. Prior to his death and while stricken with cancer, Essop was engrossed in two books. The one was by Christopher Merrett, Sport, Space and Segregation, and the other by Moeletsi Mbeki, The Architects of Poverty.

Essop got involved in the political struggle in the early fifties when he joined a unity movement study group whose meetings were held at Essop’s house. He was a founder member of the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa (Apdusa) branch and remained its treasurer until the day he died. During his tenure as treasurer, not only was he actively involved in fundraising, his accountability for the flow of funds was always above any criticism. Not a cent went astray.

Essop became a changed person after his youngest brother, Dr Hoosen Haffejee, was killed while in detention in 1977. He was relentless in pursuit of those whom he suspected were responsible for his brother’s death. No less was he relentless against the professional insurance body which refused to honour a policy on the grounds that Dr Haffejee had committed suicide. In the end, he was able to get a copy of an affidavit by one of the members of the security police who was witness to the torture that Dr Haffejee was subjected to. Thereafter, the professional body honoured the insurance policy.

When Apdusa was revived in 1980, Essop was in the forefront. He learnt to operate an offset printing machine. He, together with Dees Govender and Tim Pillay, were responsible for the vast quantity of printed political literature, both reprints of the past documents and current bulletins and Apdusa Views.

In his grief for the death of his younger brother, Essop fought back by joining the Dependants Conference and worked closely with the late Peter Kerchoff. He also made it a point of attending political trials and inquests of the deaths of political figures. It was his way of showing defiance to the terrifying power of the security police. Essop was an incredibly brave man.

Essop had more than his fair share of misfortune in his personal and business life. When he lost his business he had no qualms about being employed in a shop. He would never have taken charity.

Essop is survived by his mother, Appa, his daughter Farhana, sons Imraan and Bilall, and his nieces Mimi and Fozie, whom he treated as his daughters.

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