From ‘gangster to humanist’, Dr Don Muhammad Omaruddin Mattera honoured

The Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) of South Africa in conjunction with Awqaf South Africa honoured Dr. Don Muhammad Omaruddin Mattera at a special function in Johannesburg on 18th May 2013for his contribution to social justice, peace and reconciliation in South Africa and the world on.

Held at the Nana Memorial Centre, the event was a culmination of an MYM organised tour to the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay area that Dr. Mattera undertook. There, he spoke at a public lecture on “Youth and Social Justice” and spent a full week addressing learners at various high schools in Uitenhage, Despatch, Port Elizabeth and at a LoveLife centre in Kwa-Nobuhle.

Carrying a message of compassion and self love, Dr Mattera expressed his sadness at seeing the conditions under which the learners were made to attend school, the levels of poverty, drug and alcohol use and the high rates of teenage pregnancy in one of the schools, but he encouraged them to find solutions within themselves and not to wait for salvation from the government. He also urged them to “find someone to take along in the race of life, for you may need help along the way, you may need someone to pick you up when you fall. But the first thing you need to do is to find yourself, know yourself, love yourself and then be yourself. For you cannot be better if you are anyone or anything but yourself.”

At the emotionally charged event in Johannesburg, Dr. Mattera was lauded for his selfless service to the human race and his exemplary life to both the young and the old. Well known poets Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, ArbStrakZak, Paku and others were on hand to share their craft, touch the hearts and awaken consciences of those who were present with inspiring poetry.

Speaking before her poetry performance, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers thanked Dr. Mattera for the love he consistently displays. She then went on to fondly recall the time she spent with him and other poets on their tour of England. Other poets were equally awestruck at having to recite their poetry in the presence of Dr. Mattera who’s known for his soul stirring internationally renowned poetry.

Addressing the audience, MYM president, Thandile Kona, called on the youth to emulate Dr. Mattera who was able to change his life from a Sophiatown gangster in the 1950’s and to be a force for good in the world, amassing a lot of national and international awards along the way. He said today’s youth no longer had apartheid to fight against, but they need to find their own cause to which to dedicate their lives.

He said inequality and ignorance are the new enemies of humanity. He added that the youth, especially Muslim youth, should be at the forefront of the fight to eradicate these ills.

Kona said: “The thinking behind the honouring of Dr. Mattera by the MYM was to profile him as a role model for the youth of our country at a time when drugs, alcohol, greed and materialism, characterised by a culture of accumulation at whatever cost, is fast becoming a way of life.”

Kona said it was disturbing that the values for which Dr. Mattera and others are fighting for – and others who have died for it – are being relegated to the sidelines.”

Dr. Mattera, whose family members were present, was happy to see some of his friends, who are also elderly and frail who came to share the day with him. Living up to his reputation as a modest person, he kept emphasising that the event should not be about him, but about humanity at large.

He thanked those who have assisted and continue to assist him in many ways. On accepting the award, which was handed to him by Kona and his predecessor, Na’eem Jeenah, Dr. Mattera said, “no religion is greater than compassion, because God is compassion. To our credit, we did not chase our oppressors to the sea, we did not take their homes and properties and we did not kill them. Sadly, we are quick to kill each other.”

Speaking in that same vein, he decried “the widespread killing of Muslims at the hands of other Muslims in the world.”

Other gifts that were handed to him included a book profiling the lives of prominent South African Muslims, including himself, were from Awqaf South Africa.

The event concluded on a high note when Dr. Mattera read a poem that he has prepared for reading at the Organisation of African Unity-African Union 50th anniversary celebration to be held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.



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