The first Muslim prayer facility in a national game reserve in South Africa has been officially opened after concerted efforts over several years by a local Indian group to convince the authorities of its necessity.
"This project was facilitated by the (Indian members of the) South African National Parks Honorary Rangers Johannesburg South (SHR), who within a very short space of time, raised the funds required for the development," Glenn Phillips, Managing Executive of the Kruger National Park, said.
The Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa and is visited by more than a million local and international tourists each year.
Phillips recalled how in the apartheid era there were only a few small huts reserved for the Indian community in the world-renowned game reserve.
He also highlighted how, despite access to all facilities at the park for all communities since the advent of a democratic order under President Nelson Mandela in 1994, the Muslim community still had difficulty in fulfilling their five daily obligatory prayers.
Reacting to comments that other religious groups might also demand their own prayer facilities in the park, Phillips said a church had been in existence for a long time already and requests from any other religious communities would also be considered as his organisation continued its plans to transform its game reserves from its once whites-only status.
SHR chairman Yusuf Dockrat, recalled how as a young child he used to join his uncle, who bore the same names, on regular visits to the park after he became the first Indian Honorary Ranger in the country.
Thanking the donors who had reacted swiftly to a call for funding the 850,000 rand project, Dockrat made a plea to those who would be using the facility in the future to take care of it.
"Please utilise these facilities for the purpose that they have been built, which is to perform salaah (prayer) only. This is a place of worship and should be treated as such," he said.
Plans are already underway to construct similar facilities at a four other camps in the Kruger National Park.
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