By Sthembile Gasa
Born in Southern India, Hajee Malukmahomed Lappa Sultan (ML Sultan) came to South Africa in 1880. On his arrival in the then Natal province, he undertook menial jobs to survive. He worked as a porter and eventually became a farmer, specialising in bananas, paw paws and pineapples.
A deeply spiritual man, he later established himself as a businessman in Durban, both running a goods shop and investing in property. In 1905 he married Mariam Bee with whom he had ten children.
At a time when the apartheid government was neglecting education for blacks, Sultan dreamt of providing Indians in South Africa with the same educational opportunities as their white counterparts.
In 1949 he realised his dream with the launch of the ML Sultan Charitable and Educational Fund, which raised 100 000 pounds of which 33 000 went towards the construction of a technical college for so-called non-whites.
The ML Sultan Technical College on Centenary Road in Durban, opened its doors on the 7th of August 1956, with 240 full-time students and 4 760 part-time students. Branches of the college were opened in Pietermaritzburg, the North coast and the South Coast. It was part of Sultan’s plan to take education to as many people as possible.
Sultan died on the 6th of September 1953, a few days after being informed of a grant by the Durban City Council, which allowed the college to formally adopt his name.
The college established by Sultan, continues to this day but has now merged with the former Natal Technikon to form the Durban Institute of Technology.