27 March 2023
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) is deeply saddened by the passing of Moosa Mohammed Moolla on Saturday, 25 March 2023 at the age of 88. Popularly known as “Mosie Moolla”, he distinguished himself as an activist, revolutionary, leader, democrat and diplomat.
He started his activism in high school and was expelled for his activities. Mosie was among the 30 accused during the Treason Trial that lasted from 1956 to 1961. The accused included Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada. All the accused were eventually acquitted.
“Mosie Moolla and Ahmed Kathrada were close friends and comrades dating back to 1949. As members of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress, they were part of the engine room of the Congress movement of the 1950s – playing leading roles in every major campaign of that decade. It was these roles that earned them their arrest for treason, and subsequent imprisonment,” said Neeshan Balton, Executive Director of the AKF.
Mosie was among the first to be detained under the newly promulgated 90-day detention law in 1963. Along with Abdulhay Jassat, Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich, they plotted an escape and were able to successfully carry it out, thereby displaying resourcefulness and courage in equal measure. All four crossed the border illegally for a life in exile.
His life in exile saw him undergoing military and intelligence training in the former Soviet Union. Thereafter, operating in Tanzania and representing the ANC in India, Egypt and Finland. Life in exile was hard since Mosie’s wife, Zubeida and their youngest son survived on a meagre income provided by the movement. More emotionally distressing was the pain of being separated from his two children who were left in the care of Zubeida’s parents in South Africa.
Despite the stresses and strains of exile, the Moollas were reputed for their support to South African students studying in India and visitors from across the world. Mosie played a critical role in ensuring the international isolation of apartheid South Africa by his tireless advocacy in the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations.
In December 1990, after 28 years in exile, Mosie returned to South Africa. He was employed by the ANC’s Department of International Affairs based in Shell House. In 1991 he was elected as secretary of the Transvaal Indian Congress and served as a member of the TIC/NIC delegation to CODESA.
In 1995, President Mandela appointed Mosie as the South African ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a post he held until 1999. From June 2000 until 2004 Mosie was appointed as the High Commissioner to Pakistan.
“Throughout his life, Mosie was known as an outgoing, affable, and gregarious person. A raconteur of note, he would regale family, friends and comrades with his interesting and varied life and experiences. He was known to entertain people with his vast store of humour and wit. He was known to sing folk and freedom songs in at least half dozen languages,” said Prema Naidoo, a Board member of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
“At the same time, Comrade Mosie was an extremely erudite individual. He was widely read in history, culture, philosophy and politics. On his return from exile, he was able to impart this deep knowledge to a younger generation of activists,” Naidoo continued.
In 2013 the South African Government conferred the Order of Luthuli in Silver on him for his dauntless and excellent work in the liberation movement often at great risk to his life and for representing the interests of the liberation movement and South Africa in the international community.
As the promise of freedom soured during the last ten years due to escalating poverty and inequality as well as mismanagement and corruption, Mosie expressed his deep concern at the path of governance in South Africa.
In the twilight of his life, Mosie enjoyed games of chess with equally worthy opponents, continued to read widely and voraciously, and spent time playing bowls at the bowls club in Emmarentia.
“Uncle Mosie was the last surviving accused of the 1956-1961 Treason Trial and among the rapidly diminishing veterans who played a key role in the struggle from the 1950s onwards. He was a close friend of the foundation, and he will be sorely missed,” said Neeshan Balton, Executive Director of the AKF.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation conveys its deep condolences to Mosie Moolla’s children Tasneem, Azad and Afzal; grandchildren Faaiza, Shaazia, Lameez, Zeenat, Amani and Mahdiyyah; and his comrades and friends far and wide.