Imtiaz Sooliman 2016


Born in 1962 in Potchefstroom in the North West, the importance of community in Imtiaz Sooliman’s life started in this small, four-district town where he lived with his family in a communal atmosphere. He began his schooling here and later moved to Sastri College in Durban.

He qualified as a medical doctor at the then University of Natal Medical School in 1984, a career he later gave up in pursuit of his passions in humanitarian aid. 

As the inspirational founder, director and visionary of Gift of the Givers, a South African NGO founded in 1992, he has been instrumental in changing the lives of millions of people in more than 41 countries around the world.  Gift of the Givers is the largest disaster response NGO of African origin, delivering life-saving aid in the form of search and rescue teams, medical assistance, nutritional support, water and basic necessities. It is also the first such agency to be accredited by the Proudly South African foundation.

Imtiaz has put up hospitals, run clinics, created agricultural schemes, dug wells, built houses, developed and manufactured energy food, renovated fishing boats, offered scholarships, and provided shelter and food to millions through the organisation he founded.

Gift of the Givers is responsible for a series of firsts: innovating the world’s only containerised mobile hospital, the world’s first groundnut-soya high energy and protein supplement, and they possess Africa’s only “life locator”, a device used to detect people alive under rubble.

As the leader of the foundation, Dr Sooliman has travelled to some of the most war-torn regions on the planet. He has braved bombings in Syria, witnessed the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and has been held at gunpoint in Bosnia.

He has also been a continuous supporter of the people of Palestine, which remains a cause close to his heart. Since 2002, Dr Sooliman and his team have been providing aid to the people of the region in the form of food and medical supplies, as well as through the establishment of a Childcare centre in Gaza. Established in the eastern Gaza strip, the aim of the centre is to help preserve and increase the skills of Palestinian children that have been weakened by poor living conditions. In the past four years, Gift of the Givers has delivered over R30 million in aid to the region.

In 2003, his organisation became the first in South African history to receive R60 million from the South African Government for humanitarian aid in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Amongst Dr Sooliman’s numerous awards, he has received the President's Order of the Star of South Africa, an Excellence in Health Care Award from the South African Medical Association, the Presidential Award for assistance in the Pakistan Earthquake from President Pervez Musharraf, the Paul Harris Award – Rotary International’s Highest Award and in 2010 the highest South African award, the Order of the Baobab in Silver by President Zuma.

Sooliman has been involved in several associations, religious organisations and school-governing bodies progressively as a student, medical doctor and an active member of civil society. He is also an accomplished karateka.

For his contribution to society through his incredible humanitarian work and his substantial contributions in advancing the frontiers of scholarly knowledge, both nationally and internationally, through social engagement in the form of health and education, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Imtiaz Sooliman.