Dr Imtiaz Sooliman’s name is synonymous with his humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, which started operating from a spare room in his Pietermaritzburg home in 1992. The 59-year-old tells Lynn James why he decided to quit medicine, his relationship with both his wives and why Abba’s music has a special place in his heart.
You were born in Potchefstroom in the North West and later moved to Durban, where you qualified as a medical doctor in 1984. What motivated you to study medicine?
The youth didn’t have many options during the apartheid years, so you either studied teaching, accountancy, law or medicine. That was, however, not the main reason for my career choice. A local general practitioner, Dr Haffajee, played an important role in this decision. He was an excellent GP and loved by everyone. He was also a spiritual man who inspired me. He also delivered me as a baby.
My parents,who were both very socially responsible, got divorced when I was young. My father and grandfather owned a shop together, and they used to help the locals by giving groceries on credit and those who need assistance with funeral expenses. My mother set up an employment bureau because she believed the best thing you can do is to help people to empower themselves. She also handed out food parcels from time to time, and those were the kind of role models I had in my life.