South Africas Indian-origin philanthropist Sayed Hoosen Mia dies aged 76


South Africans across the country are mourning the death of noted Indian-origin philanthropist and retired businessman Sayed Hoosen Mia who passed away at his residence here on Wednesday. He was 76.

Mia started his career as a teacher in the sprawling Indian township of Lenasia, created south of Johannesburg by apartheid legislation to forcibly resettle the Indian community of Johannesburg in the 1950s.

Using part of his meagre salary at the time, Mia supported the education of the Indian children from the slum area of Thomsville within Lenasia.

But his real calling was for other fields. So, he soon moved into insurance, developing a formidable team which year after year won awards for the best performance nationally. Here too, his philosophy of sharing whatever he earned translated into support for organisations as diverse as the annual Diwali Festival of the Hindu Coordinating Council and bursaries for the Tamil Federation of Gauteng to new mosques and a wide range of educational and social welfare programmes.

Community leaders paid glowing tributes to Mia ahead of his funeral on Thursday morning.

Often called a businessman with a heart of gold, Mias support for many community projects is testimony to this title being well-deserved, said Kishore Badal, Chairperson of the Hindu Coordinating Council.

This included support for the employment project started by Jocod, an organisation for those with disabilities; and eventually even the culmination of a dream that he nurtured for more than two decades a regional major shopping centre in Lenasia, when the Trade Route Mall was launched. The Nishtara substance abuse centre next to the mall was also always part of this vision, Badal added.

At the critical housing shortage in Lenasia during the apartheid era, Mia not only undertook some of the first private sector projects to build a thousand affordable homes for people, but even assisted with their required deposits for lights and water connections.

Many have said that nobody has equalled Mr Mias contribution to uplifting the community in a wide range of areas, irrespective of religious or other affiliation, for over fifty years. The pages of the Lenasia Times are testimony to that, said Waseem Camroodeen, Editor of community newspaper the Lenasia Times.

Whenever we asked him for support, he never refused. Mr. Mia did not look at who you are; he looked at the type of work you did that benefited the community, said Nadas Pillay, former President of the Tamil Federation of Gauteng.

Ashwin Trikamjee, President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, recalled how Mia had come to the rescue of non-racial football in the apartheid era when nobody else would provide sponsorship.

Mia has received scores of awards and accolades over the years, including the prized Paul Harris Award from Rotary International. He is survived by his wife Farida, three sons, a daughter and many grandchildren.

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