Moosa "Mosie" Moolla

Names: Moolla, Moosa "Mosie"

Born: 12 June 1934

In summary: TIC activist, member of COP National Secretariat, Treason trialist, 90 day detainee, MK member, editor of Spotlight, ANC Chief Representative in India, head of the ANC’s Egypt and Middle East mission and the ANC representative to the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation, ANC representative to the World Peace Council, member of the TIC/NIC delegation to CODESA, ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran and High Commissioner to Pakistan.

Moosa “Mosie” Moolla was born in the small, (then) western Transvaal town of Christiana on 12 June 1934 where his father ran a successful import-export business. The family was forced to relocate to Bloemhof, a nearby town, following the Great Depression of the 1930s. Mosie did his primary schooling in Bloemhof. Since there were no high schools catering for blacks, Mosie was forced to move to Johannesburg in 1949 to pursue his secondary education. 

The developments in national and international politics during this period sparked Mosie’s interest in current affairs. Boarding with a Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) stalwart, Mrs Ouma Bhayat, and surrounded by other TIC activists such as Dr Vallabh Jaga, Dr Zainab Asvat and Dr Abdulhaq Patel, Mosie was recruited into the newly launched Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC). The very first campaign he actively participated in was the 1950 May Day strike, in protest of the Suppression of Communism Act.

During this period the Picasso Club was formed for the purposes of writing political slogans on public walls. Among its members were Mosie, Ahmed Kathrada, Babla Saloojee, Faried Adams and Solly Esakjee.

Mosie quickly moved up the ranks of the youth movement through actively participating in activities of the TIYC by silk-screening and putting up posters, writing and distributing leaflets. He was elected to the organisation’s executive committee and then as the joint honorary secretary and finally as Chair, a position he held for nearly a decade.

In his matriculation year, 1952, Mosie participated in the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws and was imprisoned for close to a month. Due to his detention, Mosie was expelled and could not write his matriculation examinations. At the beginning of the campaign for the Congress of the People (COP), the Congress movement requested Mosie to leave his administrative job in a manufacturing company in order to serve full time on the Secretariat of the National Action Council of the COP.

Members of the Secretariat such as Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Rusty Bernstein and Yusuf Cachalia were banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. It therefore became Mosie’s responsibility to ensure that all decisions of the Secretariat were effectively conveyed to all provincial and regional committees of the National Action Council.

He served in this capacity until the culmination of the COP campaign with the adoption of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown on 25 and 26 June 1955. Mosie was later elected onto the executive of the TIC and also served as its full-time organiser.

In December 1956 Mosie, along with 155 others, was arrested on the charge of high treason. He also recalls the support and acts of solidarity with the accused. Money for the bail was raised within hours. The women provided two meals everyday for five years, for all the accused, especially Mrs Thayanagie Pillay and Dr Zainab Asvat.

Mosie was one of thirty - including Nelson Mandela, Helen Joseph, Ahmed Kathrada and Walter Sisulu - to stand trial for the entire period until 1961. Despite the prosecutors believing that they had a strong chance of conviction, they were all acquitted in March 1961, after being on trial for five years. On 10 May 1963 Mosie was amongst the first to be detained under the newly promulgated 90-day detention law. He was held in solitary confinement at Marshall Square Police Station. He later escaped from the police station along with Abdulhay Jassat, Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich.

Mosie then, illegally left the country, and made his way to Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) which housed the exiled leadership of the African National Congress (ANC).

In 1964 Mosie joined Umkhonto we Sizwe and in 1965 was sent for a year to Odessa in the then-Soviet Union for military training. His was the second unit to be sent to Odessa and his group included Josiah Jele (who served on the ANC’s National Executive Committee [NEC]), Peter Tladi and Jacqueline Molefe who, after 1994, became a major general in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). In 1966, after Odessa, Mosie went to Moscow for a six-month stint in intelligence training. On his return to Dar es Salaam, he continued his work within the ANC’s Department of Publicity and Information as editor of the ANC’s news journal Spotlight on South Africa. 

From the time of his escape in 1963 until 1968 the apartheid state denied Mosie’s wife, Zubeida, and their children, Tasneem and Azaad, passports. Finally in 1968, they were granted passports and travelled by train to Lusaka, Zambia.

Mosie joined them for a few days at Tunduma, at the Tanzania-Zambia border. This was the first time that Mosie saw his son, who was born two months after he fled the country. Azaad was five years old, and his daughter, Tasneem was six years old. After the brief reunion Mosie returned to Dar es Salaam and Zubeida to Lusaka with the children. Zubeida, could not obtain a work permit in Zambia, and was forced to send the children back to South Africa to live with her parents because she could not support them. This separation was very painful for all of them. 

In 1969 Mosie was deployed to Bombay to work amongst South African students studying in India. The ANC’s Asian mission was located in New Delhi with Mendi Msimang as its chief representative and Molvi Cachalia as the deputy chief representative. In 1971 Molvi Cachalia retired and Mosie was appointed in his place. In 1972 Mendi was transferred to Tanzania and Mosie took over as chief representative.

In 1978, Mosie was sent to head the ANC’s Egypt and Middle East mission. He was also concurrently the ANC representative to the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO). In 1982 he was reposted to New Delhi. In November 1989 he was deployed as the ANC representative to the World Peace Council and had to relocate to Helsinki, Finland.

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 TIC and served as a member of the TIC/NIC delegation to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA).

In 1995, President Mandela appointed Mosie as the South African ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran. He held the post until 1999. From June 2000 until 2004 Mosie was appointed as high commissioner to Pakistan.

Zubeida (nee Saloojee), Mosie’s wife and life-long partner passed away on 3 April 2008. They were married for close to 47 years. Besides Tasneem and Azaad, he has another son, Afzal, who was born in New Delhi, India in 1972.

Nelson Mandela gave his daughter, Tasneem, her middle name Nobandla, which means “she of the masses”.

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