Memoriam: Revisiting the Life of Fairway Hotel Owner Bandali Jaffer | All Africa

 “I like to be in Uganda and I might wish one day that I die in Uganda. I have got a very good business in Canada. I am one of the biggest poultry farmers in Canada.” 

– Sherali Bandali Jaffer

By Richard M. Kavuma, All Africa. 9 JANUARY 2015

On December 27, 2014, Fairway hotel owner Sherali Bandali Jaffer died in Canada, aged 90. Jaffer, a former member of Uganda’s Parliament, was one of 80,000 Asians expelled by Idi Amin on August 4, 1972.

In an interview for a special report published in The Observer on August 4, 2005, Jaffer told Richard M Kavuma of his wish to die in Uganda. Jaffer’s wish may not have come true, but the fact that he was buried in Uganda this week shows how close the country was to his heart.

In this flashback, we revisit the life and times of Jaffer.

From behind his neat desk, Mr Sherali Bandali Jaffer, 81, labours to explain why he is in Uganda. Even some of his six children don’t understand him. It cannot be money, for they will ask how much it is that he can’t find in the West.

The Fairway hotel chairman will tell them: “I was born there; I have my friends there, my African friends, all attachment to Uganda.”

Life in exile

When the refugees started arriving in London, Jaffer tried to assist them, visiting the camps and offering encouragement. His own family was more relaxed, although each person had been allowed to carry only $50. He rented a house in Ilford, Essex. Two daughters Mobina and Zenobia were studying law and pharmacy in England and they helped the family to settle in.

But in Kampala, all assets were seized, including Fairway hotel, opened six months earlier by the Aga Khan.

“We felt so bad. We counted this as our own country. We were all citizens of Uganda.”

– Sherali Bandali Jaffer

Amin the benefactor

The suffering has not stopped Ugandan Asians from prospering. In fact, Amin’s madness appears to have become a blessing in disguise for many. In Leicester, whose city council warned the expelled Asians in 1972 that they were not welcome, Asian businesses are reported to have created more than 30,000 jobs.

“Or take my case; I was in Uganda as a Member of Parliament, all right: but would my daughter [Mobina Jaffer] have been in that position as a senator in Canada?”

– Sherali Bandali Jaffer

In 1975, the Jaffers moved to British Columbia in Canada which they found more like Uganda – with mountains and rivers.

How Indian traders conquered Uganda

While Sherali Jaffer rightly says that Asians like Allidina Visram were in East Africa earlier, various records show that many railway workers stayed in East Africa after the completion of the railway.

Whatever the case, the Asians quickly and amazingly took over trade in Uganda. One explanation that has been given was that Asians benefited from the racist colonial structure that rated Africans behind Asians and Europeans. Because they were a minority group that had got a head start in commerce, they supported one another, while the Africans found it hard just getting started.

Read the complete story at  All Africa | The Observer | Kampala | Uganda: Revisiting the Life of Fairway Hotel Owner Bandali Jaffer

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