Retired Western Cape High Court Judge, Essa Moosa, 81, was described as “fearless” in tributes which poured in from all over the country after news broke about his passing on Sunday.
Following a short illness, Judge Moosa died peacefully at his family home in Rondebosch East.
His death is being mourned as a great loss, not only for his family, but for the country, as the human rights lawyer is remembered for his work during apartheid.
Working closely with Judge Moosa in the 1980s was Deena Moodley from Deena Moodley and Associates in Kenilworth, who said Judge Moosa was doing lots of political work from their Athlone- based offices at the time, but took on the work many lawyers refused to do.
“He was always steadfast in his belief, especially against injustices and was always saying that we had to do things from the bottom of our hearts and not for the money,” Mr Moodley said.
He added that Judge Moosa acted as their leader and became a role model, especially as he was still young at the time.
“He was in the forefront of the struggles. We all had to be on the same page too as at the time, he was rallying a lot of attorneys,” Mr Moodley said.
His most memorable moment with Judge Moosa came in 1989, in court, when Judge Moosa turned to him and said: “We mustn’t be fearful of the magistrates. We have to do what our clients want and what is right. I was much younger at the time and we all could learn a thing or two from him. He will be sorely missed.”
Wynberg resident Mansoor Jaffer, a former Cape Community Newspapers deputy editor and activist, said Judge Moosa’s life and philosophies were shaped by the fact that he was among the families who were forcibly removed from District Six, that he came from humble beginnings, and his experience of apartheid.
“All this shaped his life and shaped the way he thought about people. He was genuine and totally committed to the downtrodden. He was a beacon of hope and support to the people of the 1980s. When a person landed up in jail in the 1980s, there was a slogan ‘phone Moosa’. He was an excellent leader, but he was also part of a team, with Ebrahim Mohamed, Kader Amien, and Bashier Waglay, among others. Together they did exceptional work and he was really a beacon of light. Judge Moosa was also a true internationalist,” said Mr Jaffer.
A Kurdish newspaper, printed an article (on Monday February 27) with a big photograph of him, and the headline read: “We have lost a friend”. We feel that we have lost a part of us. He’s done a great job.
Judge Moosa was also the founding member of the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group (KHRAG) and served as the chairperson.
In a statement from the KHRAG, it said: “It is with very deep regret and sadness that the Executive Committee of the KHRAG heard about the passing of our Chairperson Judge Essa Moosa. He will be sorely missed by all who are involved with the struggle for the liberation of the Kurdish people in Turkey and throughout the world.”
A day before his passing, he shared two concerns with the vice-chairperson, Reverend Matthew Esau, which were the concerns for the plight of the poor in South Africa who must be fed and the struggle of the Kurdish people and for the end to the present hostilities there and a negotiated settlement with Turkey.
“Judge Moosa asked that the work of the KHRAG continue,” the statement read. The statement also highlighted how Judge Moosa worked tirelessly to do something for the Kurdish people. “His unselfish commitment and determination for a settlement of the so-called Kurdish question, did not only inspire all who became involved in the activities of KHRAG, but was recognised internationally by the European Union Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) and the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) to mention only two international organisations that were inspired by the involvement of our chairperson. He will be remembered for the highly successful signature campaign that was launched calling for the release of Abdullah Ocalan from the prison on Imrali Island in Turkey.
“KHRAG will continue with the work started and energised by our chairperson and in tribute to him the group will pursue all the initiatives started by him with renewed vigour and determination. We salute our leader and pledge to pick up the mantel left behind by a leader, comrade, friend, father second to none.”
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