Two months after three knife-wielding suspects carried out an attack on the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam, killing Abbas Essop, 34, and injuring two more victims, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the mosque to meet with Essop’s family last Saturday.

His visit formed part of the president’s Thuma Mina campaign, which seeks to enlist citizens and volunteerism to address the problems afflicting all communities in the country. The president spent two days in KwaZulu-Natal in a bid to address community concerns.

He was also scheduled to visit Chatsworth, a day before, where a capacity crowd awaited the president who did not turn up. Ramaphosa later issued an apology cited “other unforeseen matters.”
Imam Hussain mosque Chairperson Azad Seedat said that the president’s visit was “welcomed and appreciated”.

Speaking at the Imam Hussain mosque, Ramaphosa told the community of Ottawa that law enforcement agencies were working around the clock to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime were apprehended.

He said that such an attack affected the whole country, and not just the families of those who lost loved ones.

“This attack has brought about sadness which we never want to see again in our country. We feel the pain of those affected. This is a pain that we don’t wish upon anyone who is part of our beautiful nation. There is no place in this country to allow for such incidents to happen. I assure the community that law enforcement agencies have been tasked to give this high priority and get to the bottom of the attack,” said Ramaphosa.

Three men entered the mosque on Thursday, 10 May, claiming that they had come for afternoon prayers but ended up attacking three people, slitting Essop’s throat. Essop, who worked as a mechanic close to the mosque, rushed to the scene to offer assistance when he witnessed the attack unfold. The building, including the library, were set alight after a petrol bomb was thrown inside the mosque.

Seedat said the president’s visit was very fruitful and was appreciated by the community and mostly by Essop’s family.

Speaking to the Tongaat and Verulam Tabloid, Seedat said: “The community of Verulam was really consolidated by the president’s visit following the gruesome attack that took place a few months ago. The mosque is currently working on state of the art security to insure that such attacks do not happen in future.”

Hawk’s spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the suspects had been identified, but they needed to be positive without a doubt before making any arrest.

“We need to be hundred percent sure before we make an arrest. This sensitive matter has top priority. It would be wrong to make an arrest without conducting a thorough investigation first,” said Mulaudzi.