After decades of fighting for equality and justice, Judge Essa Moosa gave up his own battle on Sunday as he took his last breath. The 81 year old high court judge and anti-apartheid activist died at his home in Lansdowne after a long term illness. Hundreds of people from all sectors of society paid their last respects to the man known as the “people’s lawyer”, well known for his contribution to the South African Constitution. President Jacob Zuma extended his condolences to the family and called on South Africans to pray for the judge.
As a practising lawyer spanning over a period of more than 30 years, he specialised in human rights issues. But while Judge Moosa had made a huge impact in the legal fraternity, he will also be remembered as a fearless political activist.
During the apartheid era, he challenged in court human right violations such as detention without trial, freedom of association, expression and movement, He also challenged in court security and emergency laws and regulations. He acted for a number of prominent anti-apartheid non-governmental and community-based organisations. He also represented leading anti-apartheid political and community activists who were detained without trial in terms of the security legislation and emergency regulations and those who were charged with various political offences.
In a tribute, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) said Judge Moosa fought tirelessly at tremendous cost to his family to give voice to the oppressed.
“In this sad hour, we salute a fallen hero and we pray that Allah swt reward him abundantly for his efforts for justice and equality for all South Africans,” the MJC said in a statement.
The ulema body added that it had gained tremendous insight and guidance from the late judge who was always ready to assist when called upon.
In a statement, the judge’s political home, the African National Congress (ANC) described him as a “champion for all those who cared for a just and fair legal system, something that would set him apart for the rest of his life”.
“May Comrade Essa Moosa’s passing stir us into action and inspire each and every South African to make a meaningful and significant contribution to the betterment of all society,” said the ANC.
Judge Moosa was the founding and executive member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and chaired its Human Rights Committee. After the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1990, he served as the Secretary of the Constitutional Committee of the ANC. The Constitutional Committee gave logistical support to the ANC negotiation team led by Nelson Mandela for the establishment of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
He also served as Electoral Agent for the ANC in the Western Cape region for the first democratic elections in South Africa held during April 1994. In April 1998 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela as a judge of the High Court of the Supreme Court of South Africa and based in Cape Town. He retired from active service in 2011.
Until recently, Judge Moosa served in a voluntary capacity as the chairperson of the Kurdish Human Right Action Group (KHRAG) which is based in Cape Town. It monitors the human rights violations of the Kurdish people more particularly in Turkey but generally in the Middle East.
He also serves as Chairperson of the International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) which was launched in Brussels on 3rd December 2012 in response to a joint call led by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and supported by other leading international figures for the resumption of dialogue between the Turkeys Government and the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Kurdish Question in Turkey.
He served as trustee of the University of the Western Cape for more than 20 years. He also served as the Chairperson of the Council of the Peninsula Technikon and later as a member of the Council until the merger of the institute with the Cape Technikon under the name of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
He was, among other, a founding member and trustee of the alternative community based media such as Bush Radio, Grassroots Newspaper, Saamstaan Newspaper (Southern Cape) and South Newspaper.
On 20 September 2012 he was awarded a Degree of Doctor of Law by the University of the Western Cape for his contribution to human rights generally and to the struggle particularly for democracy, freedom, equality and dignity in South Africa.
Many other political parties and organisations also paid tribute to the stuggle stalwart.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Judge Essa Moosa. He contributed greatly to our country in numerous ways,” said the Democratic Alliance.
On its Twitter account, the EFF reflected on the judge’s profound contribution to the legal fraternity.
“Being an activist who fought in the trenches to defeat apartheid, Judge Moosa leaves our judiciary in a state where it is under a new threat by the ruling party and post colonial potentates. It is a fact that he was an activist as a judge who sought the transformation of our judiciary to reflect the democratic values many died for. His departure means the bench is robbed of a caliber of a judge who, because he was an activist in the 1980s in the UDF, understood the idea of judicial independence and the rule of law for the interest of all our people, particularly the oppressed,” said the party.
“We join SA in mourning the life of Judge Essa Moosa who passed away today. A freedom fighter, human rights activist and internationalist.,” said BDS South Africa on Twitter.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom also tweeted that the judge “supported many activists during difficult times”. VOC