Big-hearted judge is honoured by the bar council
“MY FATHER would often say that we simply cannot wait another 20 years to transform the judiciary!”
This was the main message from Faizel Moosa as he accepted the Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award on behalf of his late father, Judge Essa Moosa, from the General Council of the Bar (GCB) of South Africa in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.
“I am sorry if I have offended anyone here,” continued Moosa to an audience consisting largely of white males.
“My father would often say that if you want to save this country of ours, you have to do much, much more for the poor. During my father’s last days, he became increasingly concerned with the poor, stating outright that if we do not transform the judiciary, poor people will never have access to it.”
Judge Moosa died on February 26 this year, surrounded by his family.
Known as the people’s lawyer; Moosa matriculated from Athlone High School in Cape Town in 1954, and worked as a bookkeeper.
He began studying law at the University of Cape Town in 1957 and graduated in 1960.
He qualified as an attorney in 1962 and worked for various law firms before establishing his own practice in District Six in 1966.
In 1969, he was forcibly removed from District Six under the Group Areas Act.
He moved to Athlone, where he founded E Moosa & Associates. His firm became involved in many human rights cases, both high-profile and everyday ones.
From the 1980s onwards, the firm became increasingly known for its work on human rights cases and assisting political detainees.
Moosa was also instrumental in the formation of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, whose objective was to unite progressive lawyers under one umbrella.
After a short stint in the Department of Justice, in 1998, Moosa was appointed a judge in the Western Cape High Court. He retired in 2011 and went on to lead the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation.
The chairperson of the GCB, Vuyani Ngalwana SC, together with advocate Ahmed Cajee, awarded the honour posthumously to Faizel.
“His colleagues described him as a man who was always available and worked for no money.
“You could even pay him with chocolates or a ‘thank you’. He was a giant. He had humanity and compassion, and was always generous,” said Cajee as he handed over the award.
The award is made to a person or institution adjudged to have made an outstanding contribution to law in southern Africa.
It has been made annually since 2000. This is the fourth time the award was made posthumously.
The previous posthumous honourees were Justice Ismail Mahomed, Bram Fischer SC and Justice Thembile Skweyiya.
‘He was a giant. He had humanity and compassion’
FATHER’S HONOUR: Faizel Moosa, right, accepts the Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award on behalf of his late father, Judge Essa Moosa, from Vuyani Ngalwana SC, chairperson of the General Council of the Bar.