Mohamed Bhai Dhai took leave of this world on Friday, 16th march 2018, bringing to an end an era of philanthropy which enhanced the lives of many, added value to communities and made a contribution in the struggle against apartheid.
Bhai Dhai as he was known was born in Asherville, but spent much of his time in the Casbah area of the Durban Business District. He was one of the founding members of the Sporting Club D’Alberton Callies, which was launched by the great Rajendra Chetty to provide a healthy outlet for children who found themselves in the streets and subject to a gang ridden, drug-peddling, booze guzzling culture. Mr Dhai served on the organizing committee of the Club’s national soccer tournament, which was launched in 1967, which attracted sides from Southern Africa.
He graduated to the ranks of professional soccer and was part owner of the Avalon Athletic Football Club and it was here that he faced the harsh realities of apartheid. Police raided the dressing rooms of his team because he had players from the various racial groups. He was ordered to report each Monday morning to the Group Areas Board Police Station in Masonic Grove and lodge the name and addresses of all his players and officials.
He was staggered; after all, the only crime they committed was to play soccer. Mr Dhai was not having any of it and decided to sign some of the top most flight players from various racial communities to play for his team at Curries Fountain. One of his stars was Kaizer Motaung whom he signed up for R200 way back in 1971. The self same Boy Boy who owns Kaizer Chiefs, which has 20 million, card carrying, subscription paying supporters. His battle in soccer ended when apartheid collapsed.
But Mr Dhai also addressed the issue of poverty. During his lifetime, he must have provided uniforms for countless children, shoes, school bags, blazers and of course food. He saved many families from being evicted from their homes, paid their electricity bills and medical costs. When South African Airways jumbo jet, the Helderberg crashed into the sea near Mauritius, he was among the first to comfort families who had lost relatives in the crash.
All his working life, he served the family owned business, Kingsgate Clothing in Leopold Street. When the company expanded and a major operation centre was launched in Stamford Hill Road, Mr Bhai assumed a senior managerial position and became the Deputy Chairman and Executive Director. The Kingsgate Clothing Group has developed into one of the leading clothing manufacturers in Durban, as well as one of the largest privately owned manufacturers and wholesalers in South Africa.
He also ensured that the family’s long association with the Orient High School which began since its inception. Three generations served the school, his grandfather, Mr A M Moolla, his uncle Mr Ismail Kathrada and then Mr Dhai.
At the time of his death he was a senior Board member and played a leading role in the development of the school and the quality education the children received. He was among those who introduced a strong sports ethic at this institution.
The Orient Old Boys Club was another area of activism for him, being Community Safety was another concern and he worked with police officers, activists and volunteers to ensure that the Asherville-Sydenham area was relatively safe.
Mr Dhai was very much a news man and befriended many journalists and as such was one of the more informed businessmen in the city who knew what was going on in practically all spheres.
Soft spoken, compassionate, the safety of the people of Durban was a major concern and kept in touch with emergency workers, the police journalists to make sure that any “event” was taken care off quickly and efficiently without further suffering or loss of life. He was also a family man who made sure that the greater family were protected, took charge of family functions ranging from marriages, births and deaths.
When he was admitted to hospital two weeks ago, those who knew him believed that he would recuperate quickly. Instead, he suffered a major heart attack and died aged 70. He is survived by his wife Khatija, daughters Rashida, Fatima, son Ahmed, 8 grandchildren and 1 great grand child.
There will be a tribute to him at the Orient School Hall on Monday, 26th March, 2018 between 18.30-19.30 for this remarkable man who served the Orient Institute, Orient Islamic School and the wider community.