Founding member of the Theatre Council of Natal (TECON), close associate of Steve Biko, SASO Publications Director , regional organiser of the Trade Union Council of South Africa
Strinivasa "Strini" Moodley was born on 29 October 1946 in Durban, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). He was the eldest child of Joyce Margaret and Narainsamy Moodley, a teacher and later Director of the Durban Indian Child Welfare Association. Moodley matriculated from Sastri College, Durban, in 1964. He then enrolled at the University College for Indians, Salisbury Island, Durban, where he did a B.A. degree, majoring in English and Speech and Drama.
The banning of the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) after the Sharpeville Massacre had an impact on Moodley. He felt that student needed to show how much the whole scenario touched them by writing a satire titled Black on White. Its success led to it being performed in several places around Natal and eventually drew pioneers of Black Consciousness like Steve Biko. Biko and Moodley subsequently became good friends.
Despite the fact that Moodley was not active in student politics, he felt that the College's affiliation to the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was wrong. His political ideologies were brought about by incidents that he witnessed, such the protest march by the residents of Cato Manor against forced removals. His association with Steve Biko and Aubrey Mokoape, the founding fathers of Black Consciousness, further enhanced his ideologies. An incident, which happened at a student party, was reason enough for the authorities to expel him from the University. However, it was a known fact that the interview he gave to a Durban Sunday newspaper, in which he condemned the University as being run, like a high school was the main issue. This was also in light of the Black on White, which the authorities disapproved of but could not do anything to stop as it had gained enormous interest from the public.
Having been expelled from university, Moodley found a job at a printing firm, however, he did not last long as he was fired after he answered back to the White secretary of the firm, who treated him in an arrogant and inhumane manner. During the formation of South African Student Organisation (SASO), Moodley was accepted as one of the members, but held no formal position, as he was not a student at the time. He was also trying to establish the Theatre Council of Natal (TEACON), however his assistance to Steve Biko in publishing SASO newsletters and other publications took up much of his time.
In 1970, he became a regional organiser of the Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA). He held the position for few months and quit in protest against what he labelled as lack of embracing by Coloureds and Indians against blacks, which was in a sense promoting racialism. Two years later at a SASO conference, he was elected to be Publications Director for a year, and still held his editorial position until his banning in March of that year. Moodley worked together with Biko and Ben Khoapa in establishing research resources organisations within the Black community, sponsored by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the Christian Institute (CI). Following Onkgopotse Tiro 's expulsion from Turfloop, Moodley participated in strikes around the country, at times addressing meetings. The Durban strikes of 1973 saw Moodley banned under the Suppression of Communism Act and exiled to Durban. The following year he was sentenced to seven days' imprisonment suspended for three years for contravening his banning orders. In spite of his banning he continued to offer assistance to SASO and the Black People's Convention (BPC). On 10 October 1974 he was arrested and detained in Pretoria Central Prison. He was later convicted under the Terrorism Act and was sentenced to six years imprisonment, which he served in Robben Island. Moodley was in the same cell block as Nelson Mandela. The two later developed a friendship and they learned from one another.
Moodley was released from prison in 1981and became a member of the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO). Soon after his release he did a freelancing job on the Graphic, a Durban weekly and was later appointed the editor. He later quit his job for political reasons and joined the Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg. He also served as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA).
Moodley covered the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and was overcome with emotions having witnessed the courage and the character of the man called “Madiba”, while in Robben Island. However, he later become skeptical of Mandela in 1995, when Mandela arrived at the Rugby World Cup finals in 1995, wearing the springbok jersey number 6. Moodley thought Mandela was trying to embrace Whites at the expense of Blacks, who needed him most. But soon realised that Mandela was interested in nation building.
Moodley died on 27 April 2006, the day South Africa was celebrating 12 years of freedom. He is survived by his wife Asha and four children.