The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was deeply saddened to have learnt of the passing of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart, Ebrahim Moolla, also known as ‘Uncle Charles’ or ‘Boetie’.
Ebrahim (89) passed away on 4 October 2019 in Toronto, Canada, where he lived after leaving South Africa in 1974.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, extended his condolences to Ebrahim’s family and friends. He stated that it was important to remember the contribution of activists like Ebrahim.
“It is concerning that not enough has been done by historians, organisations documenting liberation history and the media to capture his contribution, and that of many others like him, who were really the bedrock of the struggle.”
Balton added, “We have to step up our efforts to document our history, and celebrate the remarkable people who have helped shaped it so that we can live in a Constitutional democracy today.”
Ebrahim was born in a rural part of the North West Province on 23 June 1930. He grew up in Bloemhof, where there were no schools for children of Indian descent. Due to the racial segregation, his story is similar to that of Rivonia Trialist, Ahmed Kathrada, and others, who also had travel to Johannesburg at a young age to get an education.
Ebrahim’s activism began in the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress and the its mother body, the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). His brother, struggle veteran Moosa ‘Mosie’ Moolla, says that Ebrahim was “inspired by the times” he lived in, and later influenced Mosie’s own decision to become an activist.
Ebrahim contributed to both the day to day activities within the TIC, such as pamphleteering, and was present at key campaigns and programmes, including the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People.
Ebrahim married one of the first South African midwives of Indian descent, Miriam Nagdee, a fellow activist and champion for women’s rights. Miriam’s parents were Mahatma Gandhi’s contemporaries.
Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fatima Hajaig,whose father was Miriam’s brother, described her aunt as an extremely brave woman “who wasn’t afraid of anything”. She relayed a story of how the midwife approached gangsters who were trying to extract ‘protection fees’ from Hajaig’s father. Miriam came to his defense, slapped one of the gang leaders, and told them in no uncertain terms, that if they ever interfered with her brother again, they should remember that it was she, who had delivered their children into the world! The gangsters didn’t try their luck with Hajaig’s family again.
Miriam moved to Canada in 1972 with her children and took up the prospects of being a theatre nurse. She was followed by Ebrahim two years later, where he continued working for the ANC in exile, helping to establish the party’s base in Canada.
Hajaig, who lived for a while with the family after she had left for exile, described Ebrahim as a “kind hearted” person, who worked “hard in the struggle” in a “quiet way” and was driven by the conviction that injustice needed to be challenged.
Despite travelling back to South Africa and meeting family, friends and fellow activists here on several occasions, Ebrahim’s daughter Nazima, recalls vividly a reunion of activists in Canada that included, amongst others, Nelson Mandela, Kathrada, Laloo Chiba, and Mosie where they shared “stories and laughter” with her father, who she says was a “social butterfly”.
Nazima states that her parents’ generation had an “incredible strength”, which placed emphasis on standing up for what is “right, fair and respectful”.
Ebrahim and Miriam are survived by their children, Nazima and Mohamed Mohseen, as well as four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A memorial service was held for Ebrahim by the ANC on October 26 in Johannesburg.