16 May 2023
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is deeply saddened by the death of ANC stalwart, Mithrasagaran “Murti” Naidoo, the second son of the late Congress veterans, Naransamy and “Ama” Naidoo. Murti, 83 (a week short of his 84th birthday), passed away after a short illness in Johannesburg today. The Foundation expresses its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Comrade Murti Naidoo.
Murti’s lifelong involvement in the liberation struggle was a natural consequence of being brought up in a family that has a long history of struggle against oppression, injustice and racism. His grandparents, Thambi and Veerammal Naidoo, were leading passive resisters under Mahatma Gandhi, and his parents were prominent leaders of the Transvaal Indian Congress. Murti often said, “We did not really join the struggle. We were born in the struggle. Both our parents were active in the struggle for freedom. My dad was the Vice-President of the Transvaal Indian Congress and Ama was active in the women’s federation. We grew up in a non-violent atmosphere because both my parents were satyagrahis.”
Murti was born on 24 May 1939 in Marabastad, Pretoria. He schooled at the Gold Street Indian Primary School and the Johannesburg Indian High School, where he completed his Junior Certificate. He worked as an invoice clerk at Juvenile Clothing, a factory that manufactured school uniforms in Johannesburg. Upon his retirement he was a merchandising manager at Lewis Clothing in Doornfontein, a subsidiary of Trubok.
Murti made his first public political statement in 1947 when he was eight years old. During the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to South Africa the scholars at his school were given the Union Jack to be displayed during the royal procession along Eloff Street in Johannesburg. Murti and his brother, Indres (who later served a ten-year political sentence on Robben Island), refused to carry the flag as it represented British colonialism.
Murti was a rank-and-file organiser in the Congress movement. Since the 1950s he was active in the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC). He played an important role in the revival of the Transvaal Indian Congress in 1983, and although not formally recruited into the ANC’s underground structures, he played a supportive role to MK cadres when the situation demanded his involvement.
Murti was detained from November 1965 to April 1966 without any charges, during which time he was tortured by the security police in Cape Town. On 25 August 1967, he was listed in the Government Gazette as a “Communist”. Consequently, he could not join any organisation and could not be quoted in the press.
Murti, together with his brothers Indres and Prema, was instrumental in setting up the Human Rights Committee in Johannesburg and commemorating the murder of Ahmed Timol by security police while Timol was in detention in October 1971. Murti was detained again between May and August 1980 during the nationwide school boycotts. He supported boycotting scholars in Laudium and formed the Parents’ Support Committee in solidarity with them. Murti and several committee members were arrested and detained by the security police under the General Laws Amendment Act (1963), which allowed the police to detain without a warrant any person suspected of a politically motivated crime for up to 90 days.
When his family relocated to Lenasia in the 1980s, Murti was instrumental in organising the boycott of the dummy South African Indian Council (SAIC) elections. This Council had been established by the apartheid government as a counter to the South African Indian Congress and to co-opt Indians into supporting the racist government. Thereafter, Murti was active in the United Democratic Front in opposition to the Tricameral parliament for Whites, Coloureds and Indians, to the exclusion of Africans. He played an active role in the TIC in Lenasia at the height of the state of emergency in the late 1980s.
After the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC, Murti joined the ANC Lenasia Branch and participated in its activities. During his retirement Murti remained active as an ordinary ANC member and supported the work of the ANC Stalwarts and Veterans’ Committee.
Murti loved his sports. He was an ardent soccer player linked to the Falcons Football Club, which was affiliated to the Witwatersrand Indian Football Association. Later, he played for Fordsburg United Football Club. He spent many hours watching cricket, football and other sports on TV and socialised with an intimate circle of old friends and comrades. His home in Lenasia was open to activists for meetings and social gatherings throughout the 1980s.
Murti was married Moganambal “Mogi” Moodley. He is survived by wife, his children, Zoya, Roy, Keerin and Kreeson, and grandchildren. Hamba Kahle Comrade Murti.
Issued by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.