Durban - Trucker, tycoon and tough guy, Shaik Ameer died in a hail of bullets as he left his favourite restaurant, the Victory Lounge, on the corner of Victoria and Grey streets, Durban.
The lone gunman was seen fleeing as the clock struck midnight, but by the time help came, the man who kept the trucking industry in the central business district free of extortion was dead.
That was 44 years ago.
The police were unable to crack the case and nor has there been any suspect or even a name circulated in the Casbah area of Durban, which is known for its folklore.
Ameer’s widow, Aabeda Bibi, was 26 years old then and left with five children, Naseema, 7, Shaida, 6, Yasmin, 5, Shabeer, 4, and Rahim, 3, took charge of her family and throughout the years, pleaded with her children not to seek revenge for their father’s death.
Rahim Shaik, who is now in his forties, said that while he was too young to understand what happened at the time, he was later told there was a family feud between the Shaiks and their cousins, the Nakudas.
“They were all in the trucking business. My father, I was told, was exceptionally successful. He was respected and distinguished himself by standing up to the various gangs which tried to extort the truckers.
“But there was this blood feud, which led to a violent confrontation in 1970 when my father and four of his cousins clashed. It ended when one of his attackers, Yacoob Suleman Nakuda, 18, was shot dead.
“His three brothers, Ismail, 28, Moosa, 30, and Essop, 34 were shot and injured. My father was charged with murder and three counts of attempted murder. But he was acquitted of all charges,” said Rahim.
The trial drew packed galleries of spectators right across the greater community, including underworld personalities who turned up at the Supreme Court - some for and others against Ameer.
Some of them even clashed verbally outside court.
Bibi, as a young widow, did not remarry. She took up a job at a clothing factory in Silverglen, kept her children together and sent all of them to school.
“My mother is a strong woman. She is 71 now and fiercely independent. She knew what she wanted for us, and that was to gain a sound education so that we could be self-reliant,” said Rahim.
“She worked very hard, and in those early days, we had to move house a few times. But not once did she even consider breaking up the family. Her most precious possession was her children.
“It was not an option to give us up or to put us into an institution. Our father was a rich man, but now that he was gone, we did not have anything, except my mother’s ability to work in a clothing factory.
“I do not know what it is to have a father. I do not think any of my siblings have had that honour. But our mother was strong.
“She spoke to us positively. She gave us great hope, comforted us when we did not have and felt deprived or in harms way.
“Bitterness and revenge were not part of her make-up, and she did not want any of us to have a violent streak. She wanted us to be gentle, peaceful and to uphold our father’s name.
“He was not a gangster or a thug, but he stood up to them, and there were some underworld figures that showed him great respect. But that did not mean that he was one of them,” said Rahim.
During 1974, Shaik Ameer granted me an interview, where he revealed that eight attempts had been made on his life.
He said that he needed to get a gun, and in those days, it was not easy for people of colour to get a licensed firearm.
Ameer said that he knew that there were people (he did not give names) who wanted him dead.
This is what he said: “I have done nothing wrong. I run my own business. I have a fleet of trucks, and I make enough money. But it is jealousy. There are people who hate me. They are rubbish. They hate me because I’m a success and I don’t drink or gamble.
“I have done no one any harm. But when trouble comes my way, I stand my ground and face it,” he said.
During that rainy night in June, Ameer and his friends emerged from a cinema and walked down Victoria Street to the Victory Lounge.
It was something of a habit to have a late-night beverage before going home.
When he emerged, the gunman was waiting across the street and, without warning, opened fire. It caught everybody by surprise.
His funeral, the next day, drew large crowds of mourners to his home at 220 Rosary Road, Greenwood Park.
The hearse was followed by a long line of flashy American cars.
His family has accepted that they will never know who the killer was or why he killed their father.