Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, has received the Social Justice Champion of the Year 2021 award for the life-saving work carried out by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Gift of the Givers Foundation is the largest disaster response NGO of African origin on the African continent.
The award, which is an initiative of Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Law Trust Chair in Social Justice, was launched in 2020 and recognises individuals who advance equality and reduce poverty, have shown a commitment to justice for all while galvanising others to pull together in a socially cohesive manner.
Prof Thuli Madonsela, holder of the Chair in Social Justice, conferred the award during a ceremony at the Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel in Stellenbosch last week (5 November). Among the guests were Prof Nicola Smit, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation at SU, and Mr Eon Hendrikse, founder of the Clay Foundation, who shared the award with Kabelo Mahlobogwane in 2020. The Clay Foundation focuses on youth upliftment and leadership development.
Sooliman has been globally recognised for the life-saving work the organisation does.
In March 2018, SU bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Sooliman in recognition of the outstanding work he has undertaken through the foundation. Between 2007 and 2019, nine other honorary doctorates were bestowed upon Sooliman for the foundation's rescue missions nationally and globally.
“I have won many awards over the years, but this award [Social Justice Champion Award] is very special and important to me because of the timing and under the circumstances in which the award was made. I am very grateful.
“The timing of the award (bringing relief to communities affected by the pandemic) and the wording on the certificate resonate with our work," said Sooliman after receiving the award certificate from Madonsela.
At the event, Sooliman elaborated on the foundation's relief efforts during the lockdown period, including supplying water, medical equipment and food. The initiatives also included the supply and delivery of 2 500 oxygen machines for COVID-19 patients at more than 200 hospitals in six provinces over ten days during the pandemic outbreak in March last year.
“People were dying, and we rushed to get the machines to the hospitals. Many people's lives were saved by these machines," said Sooliman.
The Foundation also refurbished the Freesia Ward at Mitchell's Plain Hospital to serve as a dedicated COVID-19 facility during peak times and multidisciplinary usage at other times.
Madonsela said Sooliman was undoubtedly the social justice champion of the year for the sterling and life-saving work his foundation did during the lockdown.
“The work he does is all about advancing social justice. It is about stepping in as social leaders to create equality. As social leaders, we understand that inequality divides societies and that poverty is not a natural human condition but human-made and can be eradicated. This award also recognises leaders who take action to improve the human condition," said Madonsela.
Sooliman received a statuette and certificate with the following inscription:
“A Social Justice Champion is someone who has moved the needle consistently to advance equality and reduce poverty, a person who has shown a commitment to justice as justice for all while galvanising others to pull together in a socially cohesive manner.
“Social justice entails the just, fair and equitable distribution of all opportunities, resources, benefits, privileges and burdens in society. This finds expression in the equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms by all. At the core of social justice is embracing the humanity of every person so that nobody should find it harder than others to exist in society, and nobody should bear more burdens than others."
Photographer: Anton Jordaan