Johannesburg - Dr Imtiaz Sooliman is a hard man to get hold of. The founder of Gift of the Givers has been busy.
He and his team at Gift of the Givers are in Durban responding to the crisis in the province, following the devastation with looting and damage to property.
Following the disaster relief organisation’s incredible work thousands of South Africans have urged Sooliman to consider running for president.
On social media too, South Africans have tweeted and posted messages of support for Sooliman.
While he is is flattered he emphatically says no when asked if he would consider getting into politics.
“The call for me to be president has been coming through loud and clear throughout South Africa for quite some time now. The problem is that there's clearly something wrong with the system. Why would the public want somebody else to be a president when there is already an existing president that has been democratically elected by the people?
“It means there is something wrong with the way the country is being run. People are not satisfied, and to me, it should be a wake-up call to government. I am not interested. I have a spiritual responsibility, a spiritual calling.”
Sooliman says he has confidence that SA’s government can fix its problems.
“I’m sure government can sit together and fix what needs to be fixed. It can be done. We have the intellect, the wisdom, and we have specialists.
“The problem with government is that they don't understand three words: urgency, emergency, and disaster. The moment they understand those words and learn how to implement it in this country, it will be for the benefit of all people.”
And Sooliman doesn’t even have any social media accounts.
“I don't have time for it. But there are so many people asking me why I don't register a political party. People have offered to be my agent, my manager, to help me with my campaign to build a party.
“So many people from diverse communities, rural areas, from churches, religious sites, intellectuals, academics, professionals, and business owners, have flooded me with calls.
“But again, I said no. I have a spiritual responsibility, and I've taken a spiritual instruction from my teacher to serve people.
“I'm far more efficient outside government. Government is red tape, bureaucracy, holding processes back and you can’t do delivery.”
He says however that he is willing to assist government in any way that he and his team can.
“What I can offer is that we can be a service provider to government, where we can move things much faster as we have proven these past 29 years. We can help government get things done at a much lower price, far more efficiently and we can do things fast.
“In that way, we can be supportive and that will be our contribution.”
Speaking of the work that Gift of the Givers has done over the past two weeks since the looting and riots began in the country, Sooliman says he and his team have had their hands full.
In KwaZulu- Natal, the organisation has sprung into action to help with food and medicine in the wake of the devastating unrest that left some suburbs without a single shop from which to buy daily necessities.
“At the initial stage we started rolling out loaves of bread and milk, and items that many households needed. Then, we responded to hospitals to provide food parcels to look after a family of five for a month.
“These were given to doctors, nurses, and cleaners in various hospitals. There was also not enough medical staff able to get to hospitals due to security issues, no fuel, and road closures. We couldn't have these healthcare workers standing in queues to get milk and bread and other food items, so we took a decision to support them.”
Sooliman says he then got a call from many hospitals that patients were hungry and did not have any food to eat.
“We started providing food in bulk to hospitals, and then the rollout commenced to areas affected by the looting. At the same time, we were also responding to hunger caused by the Covid 19 lockdown, unemployment, or any other cause. And in that way, the area that we needed to reach was far bigger than originally envisaged.”
The team also assisted in Pietermaritzburg, where residents were also greatly affected by the looting and riots.
Aside from food parcels and medical supplies, Gift of the Givers is also helping various institutions that were destroyed during the looting and riots.
“Our next intervention is to support institutions like old aged homes, orphanages, shelters and drug rehab centres. Many of the institutions were already battling even before the looting happened. We have been supporting several of these institutions throughout the province.
“Today, (Friday) one of our staff is going to visit an institution for the physically and mentally challenged. The place was vandalised and destroyed during the looting, and the children don't have anywhere to go.
“We have offered to help rebuild that facility and upgrade it for them and make it functional. We are also going to look at upgrading infrastructure like clinics, hospitals, schools and small businesses.”
He expressed his appreciation for all the support he and his team have received over the last few months.
“All the comments that we get, we appreciate. We are grateful, But I am mindful of the teachings of my teacher, who said whatever is done is done through you and not by you. Because mine is a spiritual calling, everything is spiritual. We can't claim credit for anything we do. I’m intelligent enough to know a lot of things we achieve aren't humanly possible. The kind of support we get, the way things open up, the way doors open, it's obvious there is a divine hand, taking care of everything.
“Always in my prayer, I tell God Almighty that he does everything and gives me and gives Gift of the Givers credit for what he has achieved and that is reality. We are just tools, instruments to do God's work to help people. People recognise that.”