By Hassan Isilow
PRETORIA, South Africa (AA) - The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has completed massive renovations at a historic mosque in Johannesburg’s Soweto township.
“We were approached by leaders of the Soweto Mosque to assist in repairing its roof, but we decided to renovate the entire mosque,” Mehmet Akif Sekerci, TIKA’s coordinator in South Africa, told Anadolu Agency.
In 2002, the Soweto Mosque, located in the Dlamini area, was severely damaged when suspected right-wing extremists bombed an area close to it.
“We are very grateful to the Turkish government, which has refurbished our mosque, and the people of Soweto appreciate this very much,” said Luqmaan Mogapi , head of communications at the mosque.
The mosque, which was built in 1984, has been home to many anti-apartheid activists, including the late President Nelson Mandela.
“The late Winnie Mandela was our guest of honor at the opening of this mosque in August 1986,” said Mohapi.
He said many famous Muslims have visited the mosque, including the late legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
The mosque has been decorated with Turkish calligraphy but also has unique South African art painted on its exterior.
TIKA said the South African art on the mosque’s walls at the gate is meant to indigenize the mosque as being a natural part of the Soweto landscape.
According to Sekerci, the materials used to renovate the mosque were procured locally, with the exception of a few items imported from Turkey.
“I have interacted with some residents in the area, and they are very happy and appreciate the assistance from the Turkish government,” said Lebohang Matsoso, an administrative assistant at TIKA’s Pretoria office.
TIKA’s assistant project coordinator for South Africa, Egemen Sener, said they are waiting for a delegation from Turkey that will come and officially open the mosque.
Despite being in operation in South Africa for just over a year, TIKA has undertaken several development projects in the country and the Southern Africa region at large.
Last year, the aid agency partnered with South African authorities to help refurbish orphanages, particularly those for children born with HIV/AIDS.
They also regularly distributed food aid during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Since its founding in 1992, TIKA has been responsible for facilitating Turkey’s official development assistance by providing help to developing countries.
TIKA currently is engaged in a variety of developmental cooperation activities in 150 countries through its 60 program coordination offices, including 20 in Africa.
Some of the projects it is tackling are in the fields of education, health, water and sanitation. Others include agricultural development, civil and economic infrastructure and restoration and tourism.