North-West University honours Dr Imtiaz Ismail Sooliman for exceptional work

Issued by North West University
North-West, May 28, 2019

North-West University (NWU) recently honoured an individual with extraordinary leadership traits who has made an exceptional contribution towards cross-border and international co-operation. Dr Imtiaz Ismail Sooliman's work speaks for itself. He and his efforts were recognised by NWU on 22 May by means of an honorary doctorate.

Sooliman was born on 7 March 1962 in Potchefstroom, North West. He matriculated from Sastri College in Durban in 1978 and subsequently qualified as a medical practitioner at the then University of Natal Medical School in 1984.

He started out in private practice in Pietermaritzburg. During 1994 he became engaged on a full-time basis with Gift of the Givers, a foundation he established on 6 August 1992. He has developed the foundation into one of the world's most respected humanitarian organisations. Africa can proudly define Gift of the Givers as the largest disaster response agency of African origin on the continent.

Sooliman has met the high standards set by NWU for awarding an honorary doctorate. On 22 May, he was also lauded for his general leadership, organisational leadership and people skills. His extraordinary contributions involve social justice activism not only in SA, but across the globe as well.

Sooliman's name is well known in the areas of disaster relief, basic services and medical services relief. He has also become renowned for blending business and leadership acumen with philanthropy.

Sooliman has initiated 21 different categories of projects through Gift of the Givers, which has delivered R2.1 billion in aid to people in 43 countries, including SA.

And, in 1993, he designed and developed the world's first and only containerised mobile hospital. It was deployed in Bosnia and was appraised by CNN as one of the best hospitals in Europe.

Gift of the Givers was the first foundation in the history of SA to receive R60 million from the government to put together and roll out 204 000 food parcels. Sooliman's innovative groundnut-soya, high-energy protein supplement, a first globally, has played a major role in the treatment of HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer and various other debilitating conditions. Africa's largest open-source computer lab was also developed by him in 2007.

Sooliman's exceptional work has been profiled extensively by a host of media outlets, both local and international. It has featured on CNN's "African Voices" (2011), eNCA's "Movers and Shakers" (2013) and SABC3's "21 Icons".

His numerous awards include 121 individual and organisational awards, and his work has been recognised and mentioned in Parliament.

The awards include four presidential awards. They are:

* The President's Order of the Star of SA from President FW de Klerk (1993), the highest civilian award in the country;

* The Pietermaritzburg City Council Civic Commendation Award from President Nelson Mandela for outstanding community service (1997).

* The Order of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab: Silver from President Jacob Zuma for his excellent contribution through Gift of the Givers to humanitarian aid nationally and internationally (2010); and

* The Presidential Award Tamgha-i-Eisaar from the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, for aid rendered after the Pakistan earthquake.

Sooliman has received seven honorary doctorates from various universities, as well as 11 other awards. The foundation has been singled out by Parliament for its response to disasters in general and to the Haiti earthquake in particular. It has also received a motion of congratulations from the Parliament of SA for its Somalia relief mission.

Accolades from government include the SA Navy Award for Outstanding Humanitarian Service; the Convocation Award from the University of KwaZulu-Natal; the eThekwini Municipality Living Legends Award; the Social Responsibility Award from the SA Police Service Mountain Rise for contributing positively to the "United Fight Against Crime", and various other acknowledgements.

In recognition of his contribution through Gift of the Givers, the SA Post Office issued the Limited Edition Gift of the Givers stamp in February 2014. In the same year a book, "A Mercy to All", about Dr Sooliman and Gift of the Givers, was published.

This exceptional man's international awards include the Outstanding Service to Mostar (Bosnia) Award; the Pakistan-South Africa Friendship Award; the Pakistan Military Award for Relief during the Pakistan Earthquake; the Gujarat City and Pakistan Muslim League for Pakistan Earthquake Award; the International Lawyers Forum Award; the HIV/Aids Service Delivery Award; and the the Diversity Leader Award Malawi.

Other international awards include the Club Maritimo 100-year medal for work during the Portugal flood; the Sheikh Yusuf al Qardawi Award for Service to Palestine; and the prestigious Global Citizen Award by the international citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners. Other awards pertain to the fields of religion, culture, business, health, sport and publications.

The NWU's Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences said not only was it honoured to have nominated Sooliman for an honorary doctorate for his contributions to civil society, but the university was also proud to associate itself with Sooliman as one of the biggest humanitarians of the 21st century.