'This has touched us all' - Covid-19 tragedy hits Bo-Kaap again

2020-05-14 05:11
Mogamat Cassiem Harris (Supplied by Anwaar Galvaan)

Mogamat Cassiem Harris (Supplied by Anwaar Galvaan)

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"It's quite a different, and sad, Ramadan," said Shafwaan Laubscher after the announcement that fellow Bo-Kaap resident Mogamat Cassiem Harris had died after contracting Covid-19. 

Harris, 51, was the sixth person in the historic Cape Town suburb to have contracted the virus that has plunged the country and parts of the world into a lockdown.

He was also the second in the tight-knit community to have died of the virus. In early April, Kulsum Cassiem contracted pneumonia, and also Covid-19, and died.

READ: 81-year-old Bo-Kaap woman dies of Covid-19

Usually, at this time of year, the community is deep in its routine of special Ramadan prayers as they fast between dawn and dusk.

At night, they take food to each other and the poor, and eat together at long place settings that can stretch an entire block at times.

It is a moment of solidarity often covered by the media, which was also mourning one of its own on Wednesday. eNCA cameraman Lungile Tom died at the age of 45 on Wednesday, also after having contracted the virus.

READ: Covid-19: eNCA mourns loss of cameraman Lungile Tom, 45

The time of the coronavirus has changed all of the usual ways of the Bo-Kaap.

Prayers are at home, or by video feeds, instead of the faithful rushing from offices and workplaces nearby, up the hill to the ancient mosque for prayers.

"This has touched us all," said Laubscher sadly.

Laubscher is part of the Covid-19 Bo-Kaap Community Response Team, which has formulated protocols to help keep the virus at bay, and to assist families impacted by it in some way.

Harris' death notice encapsulated the acceptance of his death, in line with the deep tenets of his faith.

"We are heartbroken by his sudden demise, but we are satisfied with the Almighty's decree that it was his time to return to Allah," it read.

But it still hit home hard.

Á soft-spoken family man

Harris' brother-in-law Anwaar Galwaan spoke fondly of Harris.

"He was very soft-spoken, even though he was big and bald. He was a family man," he told News24.

He said Harris went through a lot due to kidney problems. He had gone for his usual kidney dialysis in hospital last Thursday.

Despite this, he did his best to provide for his two sons and a daughter, and his wife Ayesha. She had been working from home during the lockdown.

Harris was also very proud of his daughter, Nabila, who was once celebrated as the top performing matric student in the Western Cape.

On Saturday, he was feeling unwell and his symptoms were in line with those known to be associated with Covid-19

The community's Covid-19 response team, which has been trained in how to deal with suspected cases, was immediately contacted; he was tested, and isolation protocols kicked in.

The community had mobilised quickly regarding the virus and, as early as March, started their own lockdown when the virus was still seen as something carried by tourists. Since then, it has been transmitted among people who have no history of foreign travel or contact with somebody who has travelled.

On Monday, Harris was taken to hospital and was placed on a ventilator as his lungs struggled, but the illness progressed quickly.

He died on Tuesday.

Galwaan said the family was fortunate they did not have to wait too long for the release of his body for the funeral. In line with his faith, this is usually completed as quickly as possible after death.

He was buried on Tuesday afternoon.

Galwaan said the undertakers and the people who prepared Harris' body were obsessively meticulous about following sanitisation and hygiene protocols throughout, to the point of even sanitising the spades used to prepare his grave, but were also extremely respectful while they did it.

Read more on:    cape town  |  lockdown  |  coronavirus
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