The family and staff of the biggest independent supermarket in Mitchell’s Plain have vowed to continue the generous and caring legacy of the founder and managing director of Winners Supermarket and Cash and Carry, Hamza Essack Parker, 80.
Pappa, as he was known to staff, and Mr Parker to customers, always had time to listen to and advise them on their trials and tribulations.
The octogenarian died in hospital during the early hours of Sunday July 19.
Mr Parker is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren.
His eldest son Amien Essack said they had been inundated with messages and calls of condolences.
“He supported all social projects in the community, especially religious and educational institutions – to support and uplift the people,” he said.
He said Mr Parker had been well known within and beyond the borders of Mitchell’s Plain.
“He was an inspiring person, much loved and highly respected by all,” he said.
Mr Parker worked up to the day he took ill in June.
His nephew, Hoosain Ahmed, the general manager and chief buyer for the group, said it had been Mr Parker’s vision to create employment and interact with people.
“He donated generously without asking anything in return,” said Mr Ahmed.
“He was soft-hearted and always had time for anyone, whether it was a customer, staff member or company representative.
“His kindness was one of his main attributes.”
The 36-year-old supermarket grew from a single store, to taking up shop space adjacent to it, with Winners Cash and Carry opening its doors in 1999.
Mr Ahmed said it was Mr Parker’s philosophy that prices be kept affordable, which won the hearts and loyalty of customers.
He said there was a time that they had a staff complement of up to 300 people, each with about five dependents.
“So, on average the supermarket was supporting more than 1 000 mouths.
“The children of many of the staff who worked at the stores, now work there,” he said.
In 1987 the supermarket survived a fire in which tons of goods were written off by the insurance.
Mr Parker then opened the shop’s doors and invited the community to collect the goods.
“No matter who you were, whether it was for business or private, irrespective of the quantity taken, you could walk away with loads of boxes or full trolleys.
“The people never forgot and returned 10 months later to support us,” said Mr Ahmed.
He said Mr Parker never had enemies and never raised his voice.
“He was down to earth and never showed his authority,” he said.
Mr Parker would take money from his pocket to help clear errors if cashiers were short at the till and if staff needed some funds.
“His business focus was the people and the community – to ensure they were fed and employed,” he said.
And, said Mr Ahmed, the customers always came first. “Despite the economy, he asked us not to shy away from the community and to know that our survival depends on them,” he said.
“We will be carrying on his legacy of generosity – keeping and maintaining it like he was alive. His passing has left a huge void; we could never do what he did and we are saddened by his death,” he said.
Mr Ahmed said the group owned about three stores in other areas, which they closed, because of Mr Parker’s loyalty to Mitchell’s Plain.
Supermarket manager Rashied Khan said: “Pappa was a role model for all. Always understanding and ready to listen to people’s problems.”
He said Mr Parker was like a father figure to him and that he always had time for everyone, especially his family.
If Mr Parker could not attend a family gathering he would ensure the presence of a representative.
“He will be sorely missed by us and his death leaves a big dent in Mitchell’s Plain and the community,” he said.
Mr Parker supported the anti-apartheid struggle, social justice and empowerment of
all. “He was an intellectual and able to advise, no matter the topic. He was very humble. His approach to people was sincere. He always had time for everyone and he was at work every day. He was devoted to Winners and its customers,” he said.
Mosques, churches and charities never left empty-handed, Mr Khan added.
“He had a good memory. His business insight was phenomenal for his age and he showed that to be successful, one had to sacrifice.”
Mr Khan said Mr Parker had had a keen interest in national sport and was a true patriot.
The Essack family did not want a photograph of the deceased published.