'Not often public leave tributes, flowers outside surgery after doctor's death'
This is what happened on Tuesday morning, June 16, 2020, when the coronavirus (Covid-19) claimed one of its latest victims in Cape Town, Dr Fuad Jakoet.
His death is a sad loss for his patients, from whichever ethnic and faith background, the Muslim and wider Western Cape community, and the medical fraternity.
“Shukran, Dankie, Enkosi Dr Fuad Jakoet for your compassionate service for the Salt River Community,” read one tribute on the closed shutter of the surgery. A message from Rhoda Davids on Twitter simply stated: “A Legend.”
As per Muslim tradition, the 70-year-old Dr Fuad was laid to rest as soon as possible by lunch time on the same day at the Mowbray cemetery. His funeral was by no means an ordinary affair.
Because of the Ramaphosa government’s Covid-19 social-distancing restrictions, the Janazah (the funeral prayers) was restricted to 50 close family members and friends, who were all wearing “protective” face masks. Even the ablution rites at the Taronga Road Mosque in Crawford were conducted with funeral directors donning full PPE gear.
On the day of Dr Jakoet’s passing, the South African Department of Health had reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 73 533 confirmed cases of Covid-19 out of 1 148 993 tests conducted, of which there were 39 867 recoveries but sadly 1 568 deaths, including 73 from the Western Cape.
This out of 7 941 791 confirmed Covid-19 cases globally, of which 434 796 sadly resulted in fatalities and of which 132 581 new cases were reported on June 16.
Dr Fuad Jakoet was born in Cape Town on October 17, 1950, into an educated and prominent Muslim family. He initially grew up in the Walmer Estate area as a “Child of the Apartheid Era,” but after a few years the family relocated to the Bo-Kaap.
Fuad and his younger brother Yusuf both qualified as doctors, while his older brother Abdul Rahman (Manie) Jakoet became an engineer.
To many Fuad was that “compassionate and gifted doctor.” To me he was also a “gifted friend and classmate,” for I had the privilege of spending five years in the same class at Harold Cressy High School in Roeland Street.
His gift was his humility, unassuming demeanour and generosity of spirit, given that he was at the top of the class consistently for the entire high school duration until matriculation in 1967, after which he studied medicine at a “segregated” Groote Schuur Hospital, graduating in 1974 and completing his internship at Somerset Hospital.
Harold Cressy at the time, despite the veneer of a segregated normalcy, was rife with underlying tensions between the various “Brown peoples of colour” - in the twisted jargon of the race classification of apartheid - coloureds (mixed race), Cape Malays, Cape Indians, etc. No doubt a throwback from the British “Divide and Rule” policy.
At school, Fuad and Manie were also accomplished rugby players, albeit Yusuf took a greater liking to athletics. Fuad’s ability to help navigate through these tensions while always maintaining his integrity, identity and dignity served as the leitmotif of his career as a community physician and indeed his life.
The message on the wooden headstone at his grave was serenely simple, yet poignant. “Bismillah hir rahman nir rahim (in Quranic Arabic meaning In the Name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful). Al-Haj Dr Fuad Jakoet. Born: 17-10-1950. Died 16-06-2020.”
He commenced his private practice in Dorp Street, from the same surgery where our family doctor, Dr Oscar Sennett, started out and long since retired. Soon afterwards, Dr Fuad, according to his sister-in-law, Nazeema Jakoet, opened a surgery with his brother Dr Yusuf on the corner of Chatham Road and Lower Main Road in Salt River.
This was the beginning of a lifetime association with the area that lasted for over 40 years. The practice later moved to the current premises on the corner of Alfred Road and Albert Road, which because of the location saw them serve as panel doctors for the members of the Garment Workers Union.
Dr Fuad was also a “people’s physician” serving as a family doctor to generations of Salt Riverians, always ready to help those in need. A family quip reminds that Fuad “had more non-paying patients than paying ones.” He had an irreverent sense of humour and would engage in easy conversation with his patients, covering a range of topics.
He was a pious man endeared to his faith community. In a tribute the Muslim Judicial Council in Cape Town emphasised that “the Western Cape community, the medical fraternity and our South African society has lost a giant. A “man of the community” who has dedicated his life for the upliftment of the physical, spiritual and psychological well-being of our community.”
Years of dedication and selfless hard work eventually caught up with him when he developed a heart condition. He kept going till the end of May, but on June 2 he was diagnosed with Covid-19, admitted to hospital and suffered serious complications given his underlying comorbidities.
He is survived by his widow Shaheeda, three daughters Ayesha, Fareda, Sideeqa and two sons Zayed and Ishraq.
Parker is an economist and writer based in London, UK.