Kesval “Kay” Moonsamy, is a stalwart, a former Treason Trialist and former member of parliament, passed away earlier this week.
The son of an indentured labourer in Natal, Moonsamy left school to work at a factory at the age of 14. He became a unionist, and at the age of 19, was president of the Natal Box, Broom and Brush Workers’ Union. He joined the Communist Party and the Natal Indian Congress. In later years, he served as a member of the ANC, as president of the South African Congress of Trade Unions and as national treasurer of the SACP.
He was part of the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign, following which he served his first term in prison. A former trade unionist who played an indelible role in the struggle for freedom, non-racialism, unity and peace. At the tender age of 18, he joined the South African Communist Party and the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) at a time of massive struggles between conservative and progressive forces in the NIC.
Moonsamy was also amongst the 156 individuals arrested for high treason in 1956. He later reflected on the significance of the trial, saying, “The Treason Trial was democracy on trial, it was the Freedom Charter on trial.”
He would be arrested twice thereafter, before leaving for exile and continuing his political work across several countries.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, reflecting of Moonsamy’s legacy, said that his life story held valuable lessons. “Moonsamy was a non-racialist – the SACP’s non-racial character was one of the reasons he was drawn to the organisation as a youth.
“He sacrificed greatly – during his term in exile, Moonsamy’s wife and children remained in South Africa, and he only saw them 15 years after he first left the country. He spent 26 years in total in exile.
“He was a lifelong activist, who displayed great dedication to the struggle for freedom,” Balton said.
“Moonsamy was active, even in his old age. Just last year, he accompanied Kathrada for a visit to the Passive Resistance Park in Durban, 70 years after the launch of 1946 campaign. Kathrada was 17 at the time of the Passive Resistance Campaign, while Moonsamy was 20. It was remarkable having both these activists in their late 80s back at the site that had shaped their own histories, as well as the country’s.”
His funeral will be held this Saturday, June 24th in Durban. The service shall commence at 11h00 at the Clare Estate Crematorium – Hall 2.