PORT Elizabeth grandfather Yusuf Lorgat is this year's The Herald GM Citizen of the Year.
Lorgat was one of five finalists – down from 12 – profiled at the ceremony at the Opera House in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.
But the 75-year-old Malabar resident, who has devoted his retirement to the Al Fidaa Foundation – a non- government organisation that assists the needy with feeding schemes, financial aid, sewing and a computer centre – impressed the judges the most.
He thanked everyone – from his grandfather, who had the vision to move to South Africa from India in 1901, to his wife, Rukeya, and their three children – for supporting him and putting up with "lonely hours when dad was busy".
"The Almighty puts us in a life with a purpose," Lorgat said. "All achievement depends on us using the tools developed by the Creator.
"A poor man is not to be without money, but to be without a dream," he said.
"God put you here for a purpose. You need to find yourself first and learn to understand other people and have patience."
Comedian Marc Lottering, who was the master of ceremonies, said he was inspired by the finalists who had become role models in their communities.
He lauded the event for promoting city ambassadors, saying no other region celebrated its unsung heroes like this.
The other top five finalists were Kwazakhele teacher Nomonde Ntsundwana who started a gardening project, New York arts mentor John Lombardo, environmentalist Wayne Rudman, nominated for his voluntary work to reduce illegal bait-harvesting and drag-netting on the Swartkops Estuary, and Ross McCreath, the 19-year- old founder of a cricket club for underprivileged youths.
The serious business of announcing the top citizen, and Lottering's many jokes aside, the audience also got to enjoy some of the Bay's top entertainment acts.
Lottering, wearing a black suit, black bow-tie and red shoes, was impressed by Motherwell rock band Shoelace Rockaz'Soul, which had the audience clapping along.
"What! A rock band from Motherwell, you know these okes will make it big. So you have to get to know them tonight," Lottering said.
Other entertainment included the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University choir and the 16-piece Victoria Park Jazz Band.
Lorgat said he hoped winning the title would attract funders to the foundation so it could do more work.
Mohammed Lorgat, 49, said he was pleased about the recognition his father had received.
"His whole life was dedicated to this, not just in the social sphere, but also in the sporting sphere."
Lorgat's granddaughter, Naseeha, 17, said she was proud of her grandfather.
"I have learnt patience from him. With the right intention, you can do anything. He is a very remarkable man."