Abdul Khalek Mohamed Docrat, AKM or “Doc” as he was popularly known, was one of the leading political activists in the Natal Indian Congress and Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA).
Docrat was born in the village of Kathor, India on 15 September 1915. His grandfather was a pioneering businessman who traded in Burma and South Africa. Upon arrival in South Africa in 1930, he was prohibited from entering the country, as he was not accompanied by any one of his parents.
He smuggled his way into the country and went to live with family members in the tiny mining town of Hattingspruit, near Dundee. He worked there for about four years until he was threatened with exposure as an illegal immigrant. As a result he returned to India where he married Ayesha, and then returned to South Africa without his young bride. Thereafter, Docrat went to work for the Rawat family in Ixopo. In 1939 he moved back to Durban and opened his own small business.
He began attending meetings of the Liberal Study Group that was dominated by CPSA members such as H.A. Naidoo, George Poonen, Sarah Ruben (Carnerson), Dawood Seedat, M.P. Naicker, George Singh, I.C. Meer and other members that became known as the Ginger Group. This group then went on to constitute the left wing, or Nationalist Block, of the Natal Indian Congress.
In 1942, Docrat became the secretary of the Liberal Study Group and the Natal Indian Association. He was one of the key activists of this period and a leading member of the young Turks who ousted the “accomodationist” A.I. Kajee group from the NIC leadership. The young Turks began to forge links with the progressive left wing group of the Natal ANC.
Docrat was one of the organisers of the 1946 Passive Resistance campaign in which his wife also participated. During this campaign she was severely assaulted by white vigilantes and served a term of imprisonment. Docrat was one of the hundreds of people listed as a member of the CPSA under the Suppression of Communism Act.
Docrat was, also one of the many Natal organisers of the Freedom Charter campaign. In 1955, he was a delegate to the Congress of the People at Kliptown. During the 1960 State of Emergency he was one of 70 Natal leaders held in detention and one of the leading organisers of the All in Conference held in Pietermaritzburg.
He was served with a banning order in 1962, but this was invalidated on the grounds that his name, address and place of birth were wrongly stated. Several other banning orders followed, including one from 22 December 1964 to October 1969, and a 22- hour banning order from 31 October 1969 which restricted him and effectively placed him under house arrest. His fourth banning order was imposed from 31st October 1974 to 1976, and his fifth and final banning order was imposed on him from 31st October 1976 to 1978, one that was effective right up to 1990. In total, Docrat was restricted for 28 years.
Throughout his banning period, he was a stalwart who not only inspired a whole generation of political activists, but was involved in setting up study groups and underground structures. Members of these structures served key roles in the trade union, youth and women organisations. Docrat also assisted the families of those who were banned and imprisoned.
Docrat made his living by buying and selling books, and had one of the most authoritative collections of press cuttings and books in Durban.
He passed away on 15 February 2003 in Durban.