Early Years and Politicisation
Mohamed Ismail (‘Issy’) Dinat was born on 14 October 1937 in Krugersdorp. As a child, Dinat would often attend meetings with his Father, Ebrahim Dinat, who was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA).  In 1953, at the age of 16, Dinat left school to work in a family-owned bicycle store in Rustenburg.

In the 1950s Dinat became joint secretary of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress together with Indres Naidoo, and was actively involved in the struggle against the Apartheid government.

In the early 1960s Dinat studied at Damelin College while working at the college as a book-keeper. During this time he lived with Goolam Hoosen and Amina Pahad, parents of Aziz and Essop Pahad. Aziz Pahad served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999-2008, and later became an MP for Johannseburg West Highlands, while Essop Pahad was Minister in the Presidency from 1999 to September 2008. In November of 1963 Dinat married a fellow activist, Ramnie, daughter to Ama and Naran Naidoo. Ramnie had worked in the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress since childhood and had also come from a highly politicised family. Her family’s home in Doornfontein was famously called the ‘Peoples House’ as a result of the open door policy that they had for struggle veterans in need.

Activism, Arrest and Exile

Before marrying Ramnie, Dinat was already working for the banned South African Communist Party (SACP), and continued working underground under the guidance of Violet Weinberg and SACP chairman, Bram Fischer.  Dinat’s involvement in banned political activity led to his detainment without trial on 9 December 1964 and held for three weeks under the 90-day detention law. Under the 180- day detention law, he was again detained from November 1965 till 1 April 1966. During this time he was interrogated and tortured, and called to give evidence at the trial of Bram Fischer.  Ramnie was pregnant at the time, and queued daily at the court for the hearing, but was often turned away as the seats for Blacks in the gallery were all taken, including many by the police.

Shortly after the four months spent in detention Dinat helped activists flee South Africa before going into exile in London himself. There he initially lived with Paul Joseph who was part of the 1956 Rivonia Treason Trials, and his wife, Adelaide. Ramnie decided to leave South Africa in February 1967 with their two small children, Nataly and Sean, to join her husband in London. However, her passport was withdrawn two days before she was due to leave. After several attempts with authorities, she obtained an "exit permit," which prohibited her from returning to South Africa.

In London Ramnie worked at the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa and was active in the African National Congress and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.  Dinat had become a member of the ANC’s Barnet Unit in north London, serving on the party’s finance and fundraising committees. He also worked for the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the Middle East, Greece and Botswana, while in exile.

Dinat’s enthusiasm for technological innovation led him to pioneer a solar lighting business in Botswana during the late ’80s. In later years he continued to advocate solar energy for bringing electricity to South Africa’s informal settlements.

In 1992, the Dinats returned to South Africa. During the political transition in 1994 Issy Dinat played a crucial role in the local government negotiating forum. As a proponent for social justice, he believed that local governance was the key to overcoming systematic oppression. He warned that without inequality being addressed at a grassroots level, few would escape the pangs of social inequality and poverty.  He also predicted that the rise of a ‘black bourgeoisie’ would simply be a continuation of gross inequality from the legacy of apartheid.

Issy Dinat became active in the ANC Kagiso branch and helped to revive its Azaadville branch.  Elected as a councillor after the first democratic local government elections in 1994, Dinat became town clerk of the Krugersdorp municipality, and a street in Sinqobile Kagiso is named Issy Dinat Street in his honour.  He served in the leadership of the ANC and the Krugersdorp council from the early 1990s until his retirement.

Dinat advocated gender equity through academia, particularly maths and science. His conviction that all girls should study mathematics and science as a route to achieving equality is demonstrated through his daughter, Natalya, who entered the medical field. Dinat also mentored young people, discussing new technologies with them while encouraging them to think deeply and critically about socioeconomic inequality.

Dinat passed away after a short illness at the age of 78, in Milpark Hospital on 8 December 2015. In accordance with Muslim practice, he was buried later that day. His gravesite is at Newclare Cemetery. Dinat is survived by his wife, Ramnie, his two children, Natalya and Sean, and a large extended family.

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