By Kgomotso Ramotsho
The office of the Chief Justice of South Africa said the late, retired Judge Essa Moosa, was revered globally for his peace initiatives and his track record as an outstanding human rights activist. In a press release, the office of the Chief Justice said it was saddened and shocked by the passing of a well-respected human rights activist.
The office of the Chief Justice described the struggle icon as a humble servant of the judiciary. The organisation added that Judge Moosa’s unquenchable passion for human rights was borne out by a selfless and indefatigable defence of many political activists in matters relating to basic human rights like detention without trial, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, security and emergency legislation and regulations. The office of the Chief Justice pointed out that Judge Moosa acted for many oppressed people including prominent leaders of political and community based organisations, such as former President Nelson Mandela.
Meanwhile, the Council of the Cape Law Society joined countless South Africans in mourning the passing of Judge Moosa. In a press release the organisation said that Judge Moosa was a respected member of the attorneys’ profession for more than 40 years and brought his life experience growing up in the District Six under Apartheid to bear his unwavering championing of the principles of equality, freedom and justice.
The Cape Law Society added that Judge Moosa was always willing to assists the poor at great personal cost to himself and his family, often providing pro bono legal services to those who could not afford it.
Judge Siraj Desai of the Cape Town Division of the High Court honoured the late Judge Moosa with a tribute. In his tribute letter, Judge Desai said on his first encounter with Judge Moosa, he was battered and bruised and harboured total contempt for Apartheid and its functionaries and was determined to put an end to it. He added that in the 1970’s, the 1980’s and until freedom was attained, the firm E Moosa and Associates and Judge Moosa became legendary figures in the fight against Apartheid. Judge Desai said the law firm became a refuge for thousands of activists and who were charged or on the run and also a refuge for family members of activist who were detained.
Judge Desai said Judge Moosa served the Bench with distinction for over 13 years. ‘It was a privilege to sit with him. He was extremely courteous to all who appeared before him,’ Judge Desai said. He pointed out that all the judgments Judge Moosa passed were always moderated by restraint and humanity.
The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) said Judge Moosa’s death was a great loss to the legal profession and the country. In a press release NADEL said Judge Moosa stood by his people and he would not relinquish his responsibility to represent their genuine interests and never sought to seek out his own fortune. The organisation said the United Democratic Front (UDF) played an immense role in Judge Moosa’s life as a lawyer and an activist.
NADEL said Judge Moosa believed and lived the motto that ‘UDF unites and Apartheid divides’ and understood the role of international solidarity in any struggle from his own experiences in the struggle against Apartheid, racial oppression and prejudice. The organisation pointed out that it was on this basis that he took an active role in the struggle of the oppressed and marginalised Kurdish people, never as an armchair revolutionary, he took an active role in organising in our country and elsewhere support for the Kurdish people.
Judge Moosa was among the founding members of NADEL. In a press release NADEL said that the funding members gave rise to a new type of lawyer in the profession, namely, ‘the activist lawyer’. Judge Moosa practiced as a human rights lawyer for 30 years and was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court in 1998 by the late President Mandela, where he remained until he retired in 2011. He died on 26 February at the age of 81 at his home in Cape Town.
Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.
This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (April) DR 6.