Mahommed Ismail “Beaver” Timol (1913-1994) | Muslim Portraits: The Anti-Apartheid Struggle|Goolam Vahed |Madiba Publishers 2012|Compiled for SAMNET
Beaver Timol, born on 25 June1913, was the eldest son of Ismail Beena Timol and Rasool Mullah (d. 1953). Ismail had arrived in South Africa from the village of Kathor in Surat, India, in the mid-1880s. He died in 1918/1919 when Beaver was just five or six years old.
It was a struggle for Rasool to bring up four young children and Beaver was forced to leave work at fifteen to help support the family financially. His first job was as a storeman for Lockhat Brothers, and he later became a travelling sales representative for the same firm.
This suited Beaver’s gregarious personality as he was a “people” person who enjoyed socializing, and always put the wellbeing of others before all else. Though Beaver was forced to leave school at fifteen, he was eager to acquire an education and attended the Dartnell Crescent School where Pauline Morell, principal of Durban Indian Girls High School, ran adult classes in the evenings. The result was that he became a confident public speaker and was an avid reader with a vast library of books. Books such as Glimpses of World History by Jahawarlal Nehru; China Fights Back by Agnes Smedley, and others on the Russian Revolution shaped his strong socialist leanings. Beaver married Rogaya Jacobs (cousin of Yusuf Jacobs who is featured in this book) and they had eight children, four girls and four boys. Despite the large family placing a financial strain on Beaver, he did a lot of the backroom work for the political organizations in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was also an excellent sportsman, playing cricket for Kismet Cricket Club (Beaver was the brother of one of South Africa’s finest wicketkeepers “Peppy” Timol, and cousin of the great all-rounder of the 1940s, “Goofy” Timol) and was goalkeeper for his local community team. Beaver was also on the board of trustees of the ML Sultan Technical College. During the 1940s, Beaver was a founding member of the Liberal Study Group (LSG) and one the Group’s more accomplished debaters. For example, The Leader of 25 March 1944 gave full front page coverage to the debate between the LSG and the Durban Parliamentary Society. 370 The motion was that ‘in the opinion of the House the time is not yet ripe for the granting of the Dominion Status to India.’ The LSG team comprised of political “heavyweights” Beaver Timol, Rowley Arenstein, M.D. Naidoo and H.L.E. Dhlomo. The Parliamentary Society was represented by T.A. Blakely, E.L. Roberts, K.R. Burne, and K.A. Shappard. The debate was educated by Elizabeth Sneddon and Justice J.R. Brokensha.
Beaver was also a member of the CPSA and NIC, and was part of the faction headed by Monty Naicker that overthrew the moderate leadership of the NIC in 1945. His “comrades” included the likes of Cassim Amra , Dr Goonam, Yusuf Dadoo, Dawood Seedat, AKM Docrat, MJ Naidoo, Dr Jassat, Zainab Asvat (whose sister Khatija married Beaver’s brother Essop), and Cissie Gool, to name a few. Beaver was a regular at protest meetings at what activists dubbed the “Red Square” (now Nicol Square). Many meetings took place at Beaver’s flat at 10 Dominion Court, 55 Beatrice Street, where they printed pamphlets on a roneo machine that he had in the verandah. Activists referred to the flat as 10 Downing Street! When Beaver travelled upcountry as a sales representative, he would take this literature along to pass on to leadership in Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, Newcastle, and elsewhere.
Once the apartheid state clamped down on activists in the 1960s, Beaver faded from the public political limelight but continued with his social, educational, and welfare activities in the community. He took up gardening and though he lived in a flat, the outside landing was turned into a tropical “jungle” with lots of exotic plants and a variety of orchids. He was a member of the orchid society and a garden judge. The highlight of Beaver’s life was the day that he finally went to vote, 27 April 1994, in South Africa’s first democratic election. During the run up to the elections he enthusiastically attended all the political meetings. He passed away a month later on 25 May 1994 at the age of 81.
Source: Sherene Timol (daughter of Beaver Timol).
371 Red Square, 1940s
Mahommed Ismail “Beaver” Timol (middle)
Protest corner Pine, Grey and Commercial Road, 12 January 1941
Wall of Shame: The names of those who died in detention, St. Martin’s in the Field Church, London, 1978