Kay Moon­samy: a fear­less free­dom fighter

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DEMOC­RACY did not come eas­ily to South Africa. It took many decades of blood, sweat and tears.

Many, in fact, paid the ul­ti­mate price in their dogged fight for jus­tice and lib­er­a­tion, and now that the war against apartheid is over, it is time to re­mem­ber the many men, women and chil­dren who sac­ri­ficed so much so that we could en­joy the fruits of our new­found democ­racy.

When we look back on that list of he­roes, sev­eral prom­i­nent names in­vari­ably stand out – names like Nel­son Man­dela, Wal­ter Sisulu, Steve Biko, Monty Naicker, Al­bert Luthuli and Joe Slovo, to name only a few.

But we do the free­dom Struggle a dis­ser­vice when we fail to men­tion the count­less num­ber of per­haps less prom­i­nent anti-apartheid fight­ers, whose com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to the cause of free­dom was equal to that of the Man­de­las and Sisu­lus.

One such stal­wart was ac­tivist and Rivo­nia tri­al­ist Kay Moon­samy, who died last week af­ter a long ill­ness.

Moon­samy was no fire­brand politi­cian, just one of those hon­est and ded­i­cated hu­man be­ings whose re­spect for free­dom and jus­tice, and love for his coun­try, was bound­less.

As a young trade union­ist in the 1940s and ’50s, he fought valiantly and fear­lessly for the rights of work­ers, later tak­ing on lead­ing po­si­tions in the Na­tal In­dian Congress along­side such re­spected stal­warts as Swami­nathan Gounden, JN Singh, Monty Naicker, Is­mail Meer and Billy Nair.

Ar­rests and ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion by the apartheid gov­ern­ment did lit­tle to shake his re­solve, nor did many bouts of in­ter­ro­ga­tion and tor­ture by the se­cu­rity po­lice.

In fact, so strong was his com­mit­ment to the Struggle that he went into ex­ile in 1965, leav­ing be­hind his wife and four chil­dren, rang­ing in age from a ten­der nine months to nine years. Those years away from his fam­ily must have been painful to bear, but Moon­samy was sin­gle-minded about his cause and mis­sion.

On his re­turn to South Africa in 1991, he was elected to of­fice as a Mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly in KwaZulu-Na­tal, which he served with dis­tinc­tion.

It was only fit­ting that he was ac­corded a spe­cial pro­vin­cial fu­neral af­ter his death, which was at­tended by a host of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Among the many trib­utes paid to Moon­samy was one by the KZN premier, Wil­lies Mchunu, who ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion for his fear­less­ness and un­apolo­getic hon­esty, even when times were tough and de­mand­ing.

Rest in peace, Kay Moon­samy. You came from a spe­cial breed of free­dom fight­ers, which our coun­try so dearly needs as we nav­i­gate the fu­ture.

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