The Story of How Hassan Howa Overthrew Apartheid Cricket

Having devoted his life to non-racism in sports, Hassan Howa never gave up his dream that one day all children, regardless of class, colour or creed, would have the same sporting opportunities and an equal chance to represent their country on the sports field.

The son of Yusuf and Lelia Howa and the eldest of five brothers and six sisters, Hassan was born and raised in the poor and infamous neighbourhood of District Six. Soon after having graduated from Trafalgar High School, he worked for the family business after which he worked as a travel agent and a supervisor. Being Coloured during apartheid, he was prevented from becoming a manager and quit after having been overlooked for a managerial position that went to a young white male whom he had trained.

As a young man, Hassan was deeply influenced by his father, who was a prominent member of the anti-apartheid movement, the South African Indian Congress. Furthermore, cricket was Hassan’s first love and he devoted his life to ensuring that there was equality in the game of cricket and sports in general.  For him, participation in sport was critical for the growth and development of the individual as well as for society as a whole.

In 1947, Howa was a founder member of the SA Cricket Board of Control (SACBOC) which worked to promote cricket among the oppressed. Strongly influenced by the political movements of the Western Cape, with its long-standing tradition of principled opposition to racism, Hassan found himself becoming the voice of non-racial sport in South Africa. He led a fearless campaign throughout the 1970s against apartheid cricket and with the support of mainly Indian and Coloured communities, the apartheid cricket team was banned from participating in international cricket.

Hassan believed that all apartheid sports should be banned and formed the South African Council on Sports (SACOS) to pursue this goal. As the leader of SACOS, he lobbied for South Africa’s expulsion from world sport under the slogan: No “normal” sport in an abnormal society. Despite being harassed and persecuted by the apartheid police, the campaign led to the complete international isolation of apartheid sporting teams and this had a significant impact in bringing an end to apartheid.
In addition, Hassan was also a member of the committee that raised money for students arrested during the 1976 and 1981 anti-apartheid riots and he was a founder member and patron of the United Democratic Front. He also used his resources to provide better sports facilities in underprivileged areas and was active in identifying young cricket players who could be coached to play for the provincial and national team.

At the time of his death in 1992, Hassan was survived by his loving and devoted wife, Sybil, six sons, three daughters, and twelve grandchildren. He was honoured with a presidential medal in 1998, the Order of Ikhamanga in silver (for his his excellent contribution to the struggle for and the development of non-racial sport in  South Africa) in 2004 and an honourary doctorate from the University of the Western Cape in 2013. He has not as of yet been recognised for his contribution to the sport by Cricket South Africa.

Many years ago, before most of us were born, Lelia Howa gave birth to a boy named Hassan Howa. He would go on to become a great man, dedicating his life to the fight against apartheid and the fight for non-racism in sport. Let’s honour his memory by continuing that fight.

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