Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. File picture: Oupa Mokoena
Pretoria - Muslim patients, staff and visitors at Steve Biko Academic Hospital will have a prayer facility by the end of January.

The decision was made during a meeting between Muslim community representatives and hospital management on Thursday. An ideal space was subsequently identified.

This turn of events followed a row that erupted earlier this week when the Muslim community filed a complaint with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities.

In the letter, the community requested the intervention of the commission in the matter.

At the time, the Muslim community told the Pretoria News they had to scramble for corners and secluded spots around the hospital for a praying spot because a request for a dedicated prayer facility had been ignored for the past three years.

Read: Plea for prayer space at Steve Biko hospital

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But in reaction, hospital management said there were two spaces on the premises available to religious groupings for prayers.

Management said the Muslim community had rejected that space, saying they needed their own space, as dictated by their faith.

But on Thursday social activist Yusuf Abramjee and Moulana Abubakir Chouglay of The Garden Hospital Social Services Pretoria NGO - representing the Muslim community in the city - were invited for a walk-about of two prayer facilities available at the hospital.

The first prayer room is on Level 8 of the hospital, with the second located between the Tshwane District Hospital and Steve Biko in the oncology complex.

Following the walk-about, Abramjee said the oncology complex was too far for patients to use.

“We did not think the building at the oncology complex was ideal as sickly patients would end up having to walk through the parking lot and the tunnel to get to it,” he said.

As for the prayer room on the 8th floor, Abramjee said it was too small.

An ideal space had been identified on the third floor next to the staff dining hall, he said. Upon completion, it would be able to accommodate between 50 to 60 people at a time.

“We will be able to put up a glass partition and carpets. It works out easily as there are also toilet facilities down the hall.”

Chouglay added: “The proposal of the final site will be taken to hospital management for approval. We hope to set up the prayer area by the end of January. We will cover all costs, including maintenance.”

Abramjee added he was delighted that the matter had been resolved. “I have written a letter to the commission this afternoon officially withdrawing my complaint.”

Mishka Daries, spokesperson for the Muslim Judicial Council SA, said they were ecstatic to hear that space had finally been allocated to the community at the hospital.

Daries said they were saddened that it had taken three years to come to fruition but “we hope the community make full use of the facility. But most importantly we thank all the role players involved”.

It was imperative for all cultures to be afforded the opportunity to practise their religious beliefs in a dignified manner, she said.

“This is proof once again that when we as a community unite, we are able to see progress,” she added.

Acting chief executive of the hospital Mathabo Mathebula said they too were pleased the community representatives heeded their call to go and identify a suitable site for use.

The hospital would take cognisance of any future plans for the space, ensuring that the rights of other patients and staff would not be impeded, she said.