In Summary
  • Politics aside, Mr Mauladad was also philanthropic. When the Asian community leaders were encouraged soon after independence by Mzee Kenyatta to discard electoral politics, Mr Mauladad retreated though he remained political to his last day. 
  • Mr Mauladad also played an unrivalled leadership role for Muslims, focusing on developing Muslim Girls School which his father and my grandfather, Abdullah Mir, had helped build in the 1930s.
  • This appreciation of Mr Mauladad would be incomplete without a mention of cricket. He became  captain of the Asian Under-23 Test team.

Kenyans recently buried Basheer Mauladad, the scion – and last remaining male member – of a renowned family which straddled the divide of race, politics and class.

Among his accomplishments was facilitating access to influential diplomats for nationalists like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Mbiyu Koinange whose moves were closely watched by colonial authorities. He also led the way in breaking the colour bar.

What Mr Mauladad and others achieved then could never be replicated in politics now. The power of those outside the inner circle has been steadily eroded as presidents increasingly turn to cohorts to determine policy.    

There have been numerous Kenyan Asians renowned for their courageous contributions to the  freedom struggle and to its democratic and economic emancipation.

But Mr Mauladad was probably the most vibrant of a small group of well-to-do Asians in the immediate pre-independence period who supported liberation leaders even though it could jeopardise his wealth.

The others he worked closely with were Tom Mboya,  Charles Njonjo and Charles Rubia whom he helped become Nairobi’s first African mayor.

COLOUR BAR

Nothing equalled Mr Mauladad’s daring entry into the then hallowed whites-only halls of the New Stanley Hotel.

One evening, he reserved a table for four. When his group walked into the hotel, patrons and waiters were struck dumb at the sight of Asians. Then, someone got up from a chair and took them to a table. Everyone relaxed. The one who did the honours was the hotel owner, Abraham Block! From then on, the hotel became multi-racial.

Another story Mr Mauladad would proudly tell was of his visit to Maralal as leader of an Asian delegation to express support for Jomo Kenyatta who was detained there.

They were received by Mzee who also introduced them to his wife Ngina. Unknown to them, Mama Ngina made a meal of cauliflower from the vegetables she grew in her simple garden. The delegation was to have lunch with the powerful district commissioner but Mr Mauladad chose Mama Ngina’s!

A few years later, Mr Mauladad arranged meetings at the request of the famed Indian High Commissioner, Apa Pant. They were the stuff of cloak and dagger games that needed to be played.

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