Once a den of inequity‚ now a place of worship

10 September 2017 - 16:57 By Petru Saal
Xolani Donyeli and Imam Nazeem Ntintili sit in the Harare Masjied in Khayelitsha. Donyeli used to drink and play pool in the very same building before it was converted into a Masjied by Ntintili.
Xolani Donyeli and Imam Nazeem Ntintili sit in the Harare Masjied in Khayelitsha. Donyeli used to drink and play pool in the very same building before it was converted into a Masjied by Ntintili.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

The notorious tavern where Xolani Donyeli spent all his money on booze is now the mosque where he goes to worship.

The unemployed 38-year-old relocated from the Eastern Cape‚ hoping to find work in Cape Town.

“My brother lived in Khayelitsha and he told me that I should come live with him‚” said Donyeli. When he arrived‚ the tavern became his second home.

“I spent all my money in this tavern without sending a cent to my child‚” said Donyeli. It was a place of drunken brawls and excessive drinking.

 

But now Donyeli‚ who goes by his Muslim name Imani‚ only sees peace and kindness there. “I never thought that this tavern would turn into a mosque‚” said a smiling Donyeli.

Donyeli said the urge to convert to Islam came to him during a dream in 2016 that he interpreted as a sign to change his ways. “Allah told me that this is my home. The tavern was my home before but the Majid is my home now‚” he said.

Iman Nazeem Ntintili fulfilled his lifelong dream by opening the mosque in 2012. “I was walking around in Harare [Khayelitsha]. I saw no Majid here. I saw a lot of shebeens and a lot of shops. I had a dream to turn one of the places into a Majid‚” he said.

He had only R3‚000 from a friend but negotiated a deal to purchase the R17‚000 property.

“When we got the place it was very dirty‚ lots of empty beer bottles. Slowly but surely I got sponsors to help me get the place to what it is now‚” he said.

Customers who had frequented the tavern in the past were not all happy about it becoming a place of worship. They broke in one night and vandalised the place.

Around 50 people now pray at the mosque every Friday. It also doubles as a soup kitchen four days a week.

Outside‚ 68-year-old Caroline Ndiki is elated. She lived next to the tavern‚ tortured by its blaring music.

She no longer worries about fights and suspicious characters hanging around in front of her house.

 

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