Mr Ahmed

During the 1950’s Mr Ahmed Suleman and his family lived on the corner of Gush and Main Roads in Howick, where they ran a General Store.

Nowadays, he trades in the park (Market Square) opposite,  three times a week.   “I am almost back where I started!” he says with a smile. The Group Areas Act moved him from his home and shop in 1972, but many of his old customers still come to buy their fruit and vegetables from him beneath the trees.

r Mr Ahmed fruit and veg trader

His six children all attended school right next door to their home, a neighbour had a couple of cows that provided their family with fresh milk and his wife, Miriam, remembers the youngsters playing in Symmonds Stream on summer days.  “These really were the ‘good old days’, we were all races and religions mixed up. Those times are irreplaceable.”    The Ahmed family now live in Howick West, where they are very happy. “Here we have the best views in the district – right across Midmar.”

Mr Ahmed (as he is called by all his customers) operated businesses in Morling and Bell Streets, but when the Zenzele community was moved to Mpophomeni, his customer base dried up.  About 20 years ago, he decided to become mobile.  Many people remember his old Toyota bakkie – nicknamed the Green Mamba – and buying dried guava rolls from him allong with the weekly veg.

Each morning, he leaves home at 5am to get to the Market in Pietermaritzburg to buy fresh produce for his customers.  Twice a week he sets up at Amberfield, where many of his old customers and friends live now. He gets on well with everyone and most days there is a bit of reminiscing across the bags of apples.  “I have never had to advertise in all these 60 years – word of mouth is the best advertising,” he says proudly. Despite being well into his 80’s, Mr Ahmed does still not use a calculator to add up purchases, doing the sums quickly in his head instead.

r calculating

For the past ten years, Howick Homesteader Pam Haynes has been a regular customer and grateful beneficiary of waste vegetables and fruit three times a week. “Mr Ahmed has been more than generous, often giving me perfectly good fruit and vegetables that are simply bruised, meaning our family often feasts on homemade apple pies and fruit salad.  Our free-range chickens and guinea pigs have grown plump on discarded produce that would otherwise have rotted in the landfill.   Whatever is inedible has been turned into compost to feed the grateful earthworms in our food garden!  We really appreciate the wonderful service that Mr Ahmed and his friendly family and staff provides to our homestead family.”

r mr ahmed

Surrounded by fresh food daily, we wonder – does he have a favourite dish? ”I love all vegetables. Miriam is an excellent cook – I eat whatever I am given.”   Mr Ahmed embraces the ideals of strong community, good food and hard work to ensure a balanced and healthy life.

Mr Ahmed died in May 2017, just after this story was published.  He did get to read it in the Meander Chronicle while he was in hospital.  He is sadly missed by many.

r tomatoes

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Rose says:

    Lovely post, Nikki. I often stop to buy fruit and veggies from Mr and Mrs Ahmed when I’m in Howick, such special people.

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    1. Thanks Rose. Mr Ahmed is in hospital at the moment. He has been on oxygen, but is improving. So hopefully, he will be back under the tree soon.

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    2. Thanks Rose. Yes, they certainly are special people, and much loved by our community.

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  2. Debbie Jones says:

    Condolences to Mr Ahmeds family. He sure will be missed but his legacy will live on.

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    1. It certainly will, Debbie. Thank you.

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  3. Veronica Tompkins says:

    Such a lovely surprise to see this post! I bought my veg from Mr Ahmed, we lived at 3 Gush ave for 21 years. We moved to New Zealand in 2003. Such happy days they were

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    1. Thanks Veronica – there have been so many memories of Mr Ahmed shared!

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  4. Linda Larsen says:

    Condolences to the family. Been buying from him for years. Such a pleasure to deal with Mr and Mrs Ahmed. Linda Larsen.

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    1. Thanks Linda – will pass on your condolences.

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  5. Cheryl Huber says:

    What an humble yet exceptional man. We will miss him. Condolences to his family and may he RIP.

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  6. Risha Mahadew says:

    Our deepest condolences go out to Mrs Ahmed ,Firoza and the rest of the Suleman family.A humble man he was and will be missed. Known him and his family for more than half a century.Risha Mahadew and family

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    1. Will pass on your message, Risha.

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  7. Feroza Suleman says:

    Thanks to ALL for the lovely comments and messages of condolences.Had no idea he knew so many people and touched so many lives…..a legend in his own right. A true patriach of our family & who will be greatly missed by all.Please remember him in your prayers.
    Sincerely
    The Suleman Family.

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    1. Thank you Feroza. So many memories and stories shared of this lovely man – illustrating just how important he was in our community.

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  8. Khaya Mposula says:

    Nice one Nikki, these are the people we tend to forget about. In hindsight they are a wealth of information and archives of our history and culture. Thank you for capturing this hero of social entrepreneurship.

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    1. Thank you Khaya, appreciate your comment.

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