Fatima Habib, the wife of newly installed Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib, proves that behind every powerful man is an equally strong woman.
Fast talking and immaculately presented in a dark blue dress with black stockings and black heels, Habib spoke assertively on the porch of her nine bedroom home in Saxonwold about life since joining the Wits family. “I have a list on my computer that is called ‘Reasons why I will divorce Adam’. Buying this house is one of them,”she said jokingly.
[pullquote align=”right”]I have a list on my computer that is called ‘Reasons why I will divorce Adam[/pullquote]
“We had bought it at an auction and it was a real mess, but after I renovated it … it turns out Adam was right.” They moved to their home in Saxonwold in 2003 and Mrs Habib spent a lot of time renovating and improving the house. “Our boys grew up here, they love our home.”
“Refugees of love”
Habib met her husband while they were doing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Natal. They were both anti-apartheid activists who were part of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
“Adam was always off doing work in the township so what happened was he used to borrow my notes.”
“We were ‘refugees of love’, as Adam likes to tell people. I think it’s so corny”, she says while her face lights up like someone newly in love.
“My mother didn’t like Adam and his aunts didn’t think I was right for him. So we thought screw all of this and we buggered off to Wits to do our honours.”
From Wits, Habib received her honours in applied psychology and then went on to do her masters in economics and industrial labour studies.
“We said that after we finish our masters we will get married.” she said. “Since Adam got the VC job at Wits I think hectic is an understatement, the most difficult part is actually, as a family, having dinner together.”
They have two sons in Parktown Boys School. One is in Grade 8 and another in Matric who will be studying astrophysics next year at either UCT or Wits.
The Habib family value the importance of fitness and keeping fit. “Adam and I run in the mornings and on weekends we go for walks. We try to connect with the children by going out to dinner or Saturday brunches and movies because I feel that that is very important to do.”
After 10 years the Habib family will now have to move to their next “working progress” of a home. Part of the conditions of being VC of Wits is that the Habib family has to live at the official residence of the vice-chancellor, a heritage house known as Savernake. If not, Wits will lose an asset worth R40 million. “There was a lot of controversy around Savernake.
When we were first told we would have to move out of our home I was appalled. The toilets don’t flush, the electrical and plumbing needs to be fixed and the entire kitchen is shot to hell and gone.”
Wits has started phase one of the three phases of refurbishment at Savernake.
After phase is complete they will relocate from their current home.
Habib plans to take her chef, driver and gardener with them instead of taking Wits up on its offer to supply staff. “My staff have worked for me for ten years and will continue to do so.”
Habib is very involved in the fixing process of Savernake.“The construction team and the architects and myself work together because I am quite rigid about management. Making sure it’s on budget and on time.”
Wits Vuvuzela. Savernake will stay in the hands of Wits. April 15, 2013.
Wits Vuvuzela. Wits facing R12m cost for VC house. March 15, 2013.