Veteran South African Indian-origin freedom struggle activist Moosa ‘Mosie’ Moola passed on on March 25 evening after a long illness. He was 88.
Born in the small town of Christiana, Moola joined the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) youth wing, playing an active role in clandestinely putting up posters protesting apartheid in a group that came to be known as the ‘Picasso Club’ because they produced hand-written posters.
Moola was elected as the executive of the TIC and also served as its full-time organiser.
Moola was arrested and jailed several times before he and three others escaped from the notorious Marshall Square Police Station, where he was being held in solitary confinement. He would recall 50 years later at a commemoration of what became known as the ‘Great Escape’ in struggle circles how a policeman had been bribed to achieve this.
Leaving South Africa illegally, Moola joined other exiled leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Dar-es-Salaam.
After the ANC took up the armed struggle through the formation of its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, Moola was sent to Odessa in the Soviet Union for military training, following which he spent six months in Moscow undergoing training in intelligence. Moola also handled the ANC’s publicity work on his return to Dar-es-Salaam.
Moola was separated from his wife Zubeida, and their children, Tasneem and Azaad, for many years because they were repeatedly denied passports to leave South Africa by the apartheid authorities until 1968. The separation continued after circumstances forced the return of the children to South Africa to stay with family members.
In 1969, the ANC deployed Moola to the then Bombay, where the ANC’s first foreign mission was located. Two years later Molvi Cachalia, the deputy representative of the ANC, retired and Moola replaced him, becoming chief representative a year later.
Moola also represented the ANC in Egypt and Finland, before returning home in 1990 after Nelson Mandela was released following 27 years as a political prisoner.
After Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically-elected president in 1994, he appointed Moola as the South African ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran until 1999. From mid-June 2000 to 2004 Moola served as high commissioner to Pakistan.
In 2013, Moola received one of South Africa’s highest civilian awards, the Order of Luthuli in Silver.
“We played our part and it’s good to get recognition, but the important thing is that the objective of a free South Africa has been attained and we must build on it,” Moola said at the time.
Moola’s wife passed on in 2008. He is survived by his children Tasneem, Azaad, and Afzal.
Moola’s funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.