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Community profile: Mpumalanga MEC Mohammed Bhabha

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
19 September 2023 | 23:05 SAST
2-min read

In an interview on Radio Islam International, Mohammed Bhabha shared insights into his life journey and his experiences in public service. Bhabha has made significant contributions to South Africa’s political landscape.

Born in Kinross, Eastern Transvaal, Bhabha’s formative years were marked by strong religious influences, with teachers like Moulana Zubair Ali shaping his early life. He began his academic journey at the University of Durban-Westville (now part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal), where he initially studied law before later completing his degree through UNISA due to political unrest. Subsequently, he served articles in Johannesburg and opened a law firm near the Kinross mines in the 1980s.

Bhabha’s entrance into politics was motivated by a deep sense of injustice he witnessed during the group areas era. The memories of his father’s face when the family had to relocate due to discriminatory group areas policies left a lasting impression. This experience fuelled his desire to bring about change through political engagement.

His most significant role came during South Africa’s transition to democracy, particularly in the drafting of the country’s new constitution. Bhabha served in Parliament during this transformative period, where the eyes of the world were upon South Africa. He described this time as one filled with hope, romance, and the opportunity to be part of a new constitutional state. He emphasised that failure was not an option during these critical negotiations.

Comparing the Parliament of his time to the present, Bhabha noted a decline in the credibility of the institution. He believes that the early pioneers of South Africa’s democratic transition, filled with hope, have since moved on to other pursuits, leaving a gap in institutional memory.

Bhabha also discussed his role as a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for local government in Mpumalanga, where he had to manage multiple municipalities. He highlighted the persistent issue of a lack of capacity in local government, which reflects a broader problem with the state’s ability to deliver services effectively. He raised concerns about the country’s governance architecture, which he believes may be over-engineered and plagued by a skill shortage.

When asked about his departure from public office, Bhabha mentioned that it was driven by personal circumstances and his children’s education. However, he said that he remains active in politics and civil society because he believes that someone must contribute to the betterment of the country.

One of the most important lessons life has taught Bhabha is humility. He emphasised the need for public servants not to alienate themselves from the people they serve.

Bhabha also expressed his confidence in the Muslim community in South Africa, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they played a vital role in changing the narrative about Muslims in the country.

Bhabha remains optimistic about South Africa’s future, despite acknowledging challenges in the democratic system. He believes that civil society plays a crucial role in keeping the country intact and hopes that the principles of the Constitution will continue to guide South Africa forward.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.

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