Mary Moodley, or Aunty Mary as she was known, was born in 1913. She lived in the township of Wattville, Benoni in Gauteng.  Her two-roomed shack housed her large family and grandchildren but also homeless people, both black and white people. She was a regular churchgoer and always ready to share her meagre earnings.

Aunty Mary was a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and a trade union organiser on the then East Rand. She was a founder member of the South African Coloured People’s Congress (SACPO).

She was a grassroots organiser for the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). Moodley, a garment worker, was an organiser for the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). She was also an organiser of the Food and Canning Workers Union.

Moodely was detained during the 1960 State of Emergency. She was first banned in 1963 under the Suppression of Communism Act. The banning order, imposed on her did not deter her. Her five-year ban was continuously renewed from the time it was imposed in 1963 to 1977. Despite her age, the security police served yet another five-year ban. In 1964, she was arrested and charged with helping fugitives to escape from South Africa and given a suspended sentence.

She was confined and restricted to Benoni. This situation made it difficult for her to go, for medical treatment to the hospital outside the magisterial area of Benoni. Consequently, Aunty Mary and her husband required a permit from the local authorities to go to the hospital.

On 23 October 1979, at the age of 66, Mary Moodley passed away. 



Bannings, Bannings. Chapter twelve from the Digital Imaging South Africa,  [online], Available at [Accessed on 7 August 2012]|Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, (2000), Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo, p.34

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