Dr Ahmed Ismail Limbada grew up in Dundee, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal).
He studied at Sastri College in Durban, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and Witwatersrand University (Wits) in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng) where he was a member of the Progressive Forum.
In 1951, two of Dundee’s sons, Karrim Essack and Dr Limbada returned from their studies at Wits as politically trained and dedicated members of the Non European Unity Movement (NEUM), later known as the Unity Movement of South Africa (UMSA) and then the New Unity Movement of South Africa (NEUM).
When Dr Limbada returned to Dundee he started a study group for young activists. He would hand them assignments, and compel them to do research and make oral presentations. Dundee became a hotbed of Unity Movement activity with the likes of Limbada, Ismail Patel, VG Naidoo, and Karrim Essack prominent. Initially, Limbaba was a member of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC).
He and Karrim Essack, as members, hoped to influence the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) through its Dundee branch. However, when Limbada’s faction opposed the Defiance Campaign in 1952, the NIC expelled them. Addressing a non-racial audience at the Millsite Theatre in Dundee on 23 November 1952, Limbada criticised the NIC for not accepting their challenge of a debate and said that the Defiance Campaign was ‘the same old dirt in a new garbage dust bin. Dr Limbada propagated the NEUM philosophy from within Congress by using Congress platforms. He played on the motions of Congress members by appealing to them for African unity.
The 1950s saw an increasing working together between the African and Indian peoples in Natal. The NEUM under the leadership of Karrim Essack and Dr Limbada spread rapidly in Northern Natal. Dr. Limbada, spoke Zulu fluently. He worked intensively with the African peasantry in the Nqutu area (Northern Natal) together with freedom fighters, the Molefe brothers, Chief Isaac together with Isreal Moloyi.
Dr Limbada clearly posed a threat to the ruling class with his preaching of unity of the oppressed, non collaboration with the ruling system and the striving for a democratic society based on the solution of the land question.
Dr. Limbada was the first person in Natal from amongst the oppressed communities to be subjected to a banning order under the Suppression of Communism Act from 28 April 1967 to 30 June 1968. The State’s reason for the banning order was that he actively preached and practised unity between the Indian and African oppressed people and rejected the policy of appealing to the rulers for a change in the lot of the oppressed people. He was confined to a small village called Pomeroy in Northern Natal.
In the late 1950s Limbada moved to Pomeroy, where he and Karrim Essack were involved in mobilising peasants who took up armed resistance against the state. In the face of state repression in the early 1960s, Limbada went into exile to Botswana and from there to Zambia.
During the [NEUM] Maritzburg Trial (June 1971- April 1972) the accused faced charges under the Terrorism Act. They were alleged to have endangered the maintenance of law and order and with the African People's Democratic Union of South Africa (APDUSA) and the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM), sought to overthrow the government by force of arms, and with foreign assistance. The state led evidence that about 1963 I B Tabata and the majority of the leaders of the African Peoples Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA), including Dr Limbada, Wycliffe Tsotsi and Jane Gool (all co-conspirators) left the South Africa secretly and established a headquarters of the Unity Movement in Lusaka and were preparing to send four persons to South Africa to revive APDUSA and to recruit persons to undergo military training.
Aside from the struggle to set up a political base in exile, he was struck by personal grief. First, around 1972, his daughter was killed in a motor vehicle accident and he subsequently lost his wife, Bibi Mall.
Dr Ahmed Ismail Limbada cut an increasingly isolated figure when he died of a heart attack in Zambia in 1988.
- Goolam Vahed (2012). Muslim Portraits: The Anti-Apartheid Struggle - Ahmed Ismail Limbada - (1922 – 1988), p 199, online. Available at https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/muslim_portraits_goolam_vahed_0.pdf . Accessed on 28 February 2019.
- APDUSA. (2004). Apdusa Views – Issue No. 73, June 2004, p 10 – 11, online. Available at https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/73.pdf . Accessed on 28 February 2019.
- South African History Online. (2011). Banned online. Available at https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/banned . Accessed on 2019-03-06
- South African History Online. The Maritzburg Trial (June 1971- April 1972) online. Available at https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/DC/Br1972.0376.4354.000.000.1972.13/Br1972.0376.4354.000.000.1972.13.pdf . Accessed on 2019-03-06
- Black Political Resistance In Natal, 1947-1952,by Balaguru Lutchmanah Viranna
- Report of the proceedings of the 7th National -Conference of the Non-European.Unity Movement, held in the Woodstock Town Hall, Cape Town, Monday - Tuesday, 2nd - 3rd April 1951
- Indian Opinion, No: 12-VOL-LI, Friday, 20th March 1953, p179
- Muslim Portraits: The Anti-Apartheid Struggle - Goolam Vahed