‘My dad, the po­lit­i­cal icon’

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CA­MARA Moodley is the el­dest daugh­ter of Strini and Asha Moodley. Ca­mara is one of three chil­dren, hav­ing an older brother, Ger­mane, and a younger sis­ter, Tamzyn.

She de­scribes her­self as a gen­er­ally happy and a joy­ful per­son. In ad­di­tion to be­ing an avid foodie and Liver­pool FC fa­natic, she takes great de­light in meet­ing new peo­ple.

Ca­mara cur­rently works as a sub-ed­i­tor and jour­nal­ist at a com­mu­nity-based news­pa­per and lives in Green­wood Park.

Her dad, Strini Moodley, was born on Oc­to­ber 29, 1946, in what was pre­vi­ously called Na­tal.

Moodley ma­tric­u­lated in 1964 from Sas­tri Col­lege and be­gan his ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity Col­lege for In­di­ans on Sal­is­bury Is­land.

Narain­samy Moodley, Strini’s fa­ther, was very in­volved with the South African Com­mu­nist Party, which mo­ti­vated and nur­tured his po­lit­i­cal aware­ness.

Ca­mara re­called: “He was a poet, writer and play­wright. On Sal­is­bury Is­land, he to­gether with like-minded friends, pro­duced the satire, Black on White. It poked fun at life on the is­land, which they re­garded as a bush or apartheid col­lege.”

As a play­wright he scripted nu­mer­ous pro­duc­tions, which de­picted the lives of black peo­ple dur­ing the apartheid era.

His work caught the eye of Steve Bantu Biko as the plays demon­strated Black Con­scious­ness. Biko in­vited Moodley and the rest of the cast to per­form their pro­duc­tions shortly af­ter dis­cov­er­ing Moodley’s tal­ent.

Thus it was dur­ing Moodley’s time as a writer that Biko and he be­came great friends.

Moodley be­came an im­por­tant fig­ure in the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment (BCM), which emerged as a so­cial move­ment for po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness soon af­ter the Sharpeville Mas­sacre and the ban­ning of the African Na­tional Congress and the Pan African Congress.

In 1968, dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the South African Stu­dents Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SASO), Moodley was ac­cepted as a mem­ber.

In 1970, Moodley was a found­ing mem­ber of ar­guably one of the most im­por­tant the­atre move­ments of the 1970s, The The­atre Coun­cil of Na­tal. TECON was one of nu­mer­ous arts and cul­ture or­gan­i­sa­tions as­so­ci­ated with the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment.

Moodley was also ap­pointed re­gional or­gan­iser of the Trade Union Coun­cil of South Africa in that year.

Un­der the Sup­pres­sion of Com­mu­nism Act, Moodley was banned for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Dur­ban strikes of 1973. How­ever, that did not stop him from con­tin­u­ing as an ac­tivist of the BCM.

Moodley ran and man­aged the head of­fice of SASO, which was based at 86 Beatrice Street.

He trav­elled ex­ten­sively by train and bus to the var­i­ous “black” cam­puses around the coun­try, ral­ly­ing and build­ing up sup­port for SASO.

The cam­puses in­cluded the lo­cal Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land at Ngoye, the cam­pus for so-called coloured stu­dents at Bel­lville in the Western Cape, other “bus col­leges” at Tur­floop (Univer­sity of North), Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape, and teacher train­ing in­sti­tu­tions for black stu­dents in the then Transvaal.

The re­sult was the cre­ation of a firm foun­da­tion and net­work of branches of SASO, which formed the plat­form for the build­ing of the BCM. He was en­gaged in this work un­til he was banned in 1973.

In 1974, fol­low­ing the Fre­limo Rally in Dur­ban, Moodley was ar­rested un­der the Ter­ror­ism Act and sen­tenced to six years on Robben Is­land.

Moodley was in the same cell block as Nel­son Man­dela and it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the two stal­warts de­vel­oped a friend­ship.

Ca­mara re­calls her fa­ther telling his chil­dren about life on the is­land and how he was pop­u­larly known as “Con­nec­tion”.

“Dad used to tell us about play­ing chess with Nel­son Man­dela on Robben Is­land and that he beat him. It was fas­ci­nat­ing and amaz­ing to us to hear this.

“Man­dela was like this great hu­man be­ing to us, but here is our dad, who beat this iconic man at chess.”

On his re­lease from prison in 1981, Moodley was nom­i­nated as the pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary for the Aza­nian Peo­ple’s Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Shortly af­ter be­ing re­leased from Robben Is­land, Moodley took a job as a free­lancer on the Graphic, a Dur­ban weekly news­pa­per and was later ap­pointed ed­i­tor but quit his job for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. Af­ter join­ing the Na­tal Wit­ness in Pietermaritzburg, Moodley was given the task of cov­er­ing Man­dela’s re­lease from prison.

When asked about the im­pact her fa­ther made on her life, Ca­mara said: “My fa­ther al­ways wanted me to be the best that I can be, to think with an open and crit­i­cal mind, to not just ac­cept what is handed to me and to stand up for what I be­lieve in.”

Ca­mara be­gan to ex­plain how her fa­ther taught his chil­dren re­silience and in­de­pen­dence, sim­i­larly to how he guided stu­dents in ear­lier years.

She men­tioned that her fa­ther had spent a lot of time away from home, as he fre­quently trav­elled over­seas to get sup­port and pro­mote AZAPO.

How­ever, when she dwells upon her mem­ory of him, she re­calls him wak­ing up promptly on Sun­day morn­ings and hear­ing his foot­steps trot­ting down the pas­sage.

“He would pre­pare break­fast for us, read the news­pa­pers or put on mu­sic. He would lis­ten to his favourite African mu­si­cians. It was like a Sun­day rit­ual at home.”

Ca­mara’s mother, Asha, is an ac­tivist and fem­i­nist.

Asha is on the ed­i­to­rial board of Agenda, a fem­i­nist jour­nal.

Ca­mara be­gan to rec­ol­lect on times when her par­ents would take her and sis­ter Tamzyn to var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal meet­ings in Derby Street.

She con­fessed that the sib­lings were young and would play games while th­ese meet­ings were tak­ing place.

Ca­mara added: “I re­mem­ber if we be­came loud, ev­ery­one would turn to look at my sis­ter and I. We were obliv­i­ous to what was go­ing on. But at the end of the meet­ing, we would al­ways ex­cit­edly join them and scream out ‘Amandla!’ ”

Her fa­ther had be­come in­volved with Um­tapo Cen­tre, which is a non-profit de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion that ed­u­cates and em­pow­ers peo­ple through teach­ing them life skills.

She said with great pride: “My fa­ther coined its slo­gan ‘Free the Mind, Free the Land.’ Dad was in­volved in peace pro­grammes, which were aimed at build­ing self-re­liance among stu­dents in the com­mu­nity. Th­ese pro­grammes still con­tinue to­day and this is the legacy my fa­ther left.”

Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion that both her par­ents were ac­tivists who fought for democ­racy and strived for a bet­ter na­tion, Ca­mara said that South Africa was go­ing through a tran­si­tional pe­riod and that things would change in our coun­try when pro­vided with the cor­rect po­lit­i­cal will and lead­er­ship.

When asked if she had any ad­vice for our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, Moodley said: “I would say to them that they need to put the needs of the peo­ple first, be­fore their own. They need to be open, trans­par­ent and hon­est with the peo­ple of this coun­try. They also need to start tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions and own­ing up to their wrong-do­ings.”

Ca­mara is a woman well equipped with self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and pro­fi­ciency. How­ever, she feels that pol­i­tics is not her call­ing, but has vast ad­mi­ra­tion for the in­di­vid­u­als work­ing at grass­roots level to help peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties.


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