Ahmed Essop "Quarter" Khota, was born on 5 July 1928. His friends affectionately knew him as “Quarter”, a name given to him by Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. It was a play on his surname and a reference to his slight physique since many beverages at the time were sold in a “Â¼ pint”.
During the 1950s, Quarter was a member of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and a part of the corps of activists that contributed to the major campaigns of that decade. He assisted in fundraising for the Congress movement during that time.
The contributions that Quarter is best remembered for revolves around his business. Since his shop was centrally located on Market Street, activists would use his business as a drop-off or collection point. On the strength of a note he received from Mosie Moolla, who was a detainee at Marshall Square Police Station in 1964, he supplied a pair of shoes to a police officer as an inducement to facilitate the escape of Mosie Moolla,Abdulhay Jassat, Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich.
Shirish Nanabhai recalled that, “Every child whose family was part of the struggle received their school clothes, free of charge, from Quarter’s shop.”
Joe Matthews, a veteran of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), described the role that Indian business owners in Johannesburg and Durban played in supporting the liberation movement during the 1950s. Amongst some of the Indian business people he cited, Matthews mentioned Quarter by stating that: “In Johannesburg, to cite another example, you had New Reef Wholesalers and Ahmed Khota (Quarter) would make available to us goods from his shop.”
Dasu Joseph, a fellow Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) activist reported that he was recruited by Wolfie Kodesh into an underground unit that included Quarter and Suliman “Babla” Saloojee. He recalls an incident when he and Quarter were putting up posters to announce the launch of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK):
"We went round Johannesburg and we were allocated an area whereby we were asked to stick up these posters. It was after we had been around Market Street and Diagonal Street, we were working down towards the pass offices in Avenue Road and the pass office was very, very dark and it was a very quiet evening. We went along to the walls of the pass offices that were facing the front and we began putting up these posters, Quarter stuck the glue onto the wall and I had the poster and spread it on. It was after we had completed that task and been around all over that we later discovered that when it was announced the following morning, we had put the posters up that night, that bombs went off simultaneously at the Fordsburg Post Office, the Johannesburg Pass Office where we had put up the poster, the Portuguese Embassy, they all went up at the same time and a number of other buildings blew up. It was then that we learned that Ahmed Quarter and I would have been the first victims for MK because a bomb was planted right where we put up the posters and the guys who put it up there were watching us at the time and they couldn’t signal to us that they had planted a bomb there."
Quarter also helped to store radio broadcast equipment for an attempted, but unsuccessful, broadcast byWilton Mkwayi, who headed the Second National High Command of MK in 1964. As a result Quarter was detained for a short while at Rosebank Police Station during the 1960s in terms of security legislation.
Quarter was well known for his sense of humour, conviviality and generosity. He loved playing pranks on people who took themselves too seriously and possessed the gift for telling stories. Quarter’s zest for life was also evident in his community work – raising funds for bursaries, initiating community projects, acting as go-between in numerous business and domestic conflicts and always providing assistance to business start-ups and families in need.
The large and varied groups of people who came to pay their respects when he passed away on 17 June 2009 were testimony to his multifaceted character. Quarter is survived by his wife Ayesha, two sons Mohammed and Yahya, two daughters Reihana and Nafissa and 17 grandchildren.