About Rahima Moosa
Born: 14 October 1922, in the Strand, Cape Town
In summary: Shop steward for the Cape Town Food and Canning Workers’ Union, member of the Transvaal Indian Congress, helped organise the 1956 FEDSAW Women’s March and member of the ANC
Rahima Moosa was born in the Strand, Cape Town on 14 October 1922. She attended Trafalgar High School in Cape Town. As a teenager, Rahima and her identical twin sister, Fatima became politically active after they became aware of the unjust segregationist laws that ruled South Africa. In 1943 Rahima became the shop steward for the Cape Town Food and Canning Workers’ Union. She later became the branch secretary for the union and more active in labour politics. In 1951 she married Dr. Hassen “Ike” Mohamed Moosa, a fellow comrade and Treason trialist. She moved to Johannesburg with her husband and together they had four children.
In Johannesburg, Rahima became involved with the Transvaal Indian Congress and thereafter the African National Congress as the Congress and the ANC had signed a pact for a common struggle. In 1955 she played a significant role in the organisation of the Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted. In 1956, while pregnant with her daughter, Natasha, she helped organise the Women’s March, under the auspices of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). Together with Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Sophia Williams, Rahima spearheaded the historic march to the Union Buildings where women handed over petitions against pass laws. Rahima and her twin sister Fatima always managed to confuse the security branch officer as they could easily switch identities, in times of harassment.
In the early 1960s, Rahima became listed, a status that she remained in until 1990 with the unbanning of the African National Congress. In 1970 she suffered a heart attack, as a result of diabetes and after this her health detoriated drastically until her death in 1993, a year before independence. Before passing away, she made it a point that her children would continue her work for a just South African Society, her children have since been active in the ANC and her husband, though old is also active in political work.
History of Women's struggle in South Africa
was one of twins born in Cape Town in 1922. She was brought up in a liberated Islamic environment with a father who admired Gandhi. She dropped out of school with little formal education. Annoyed by the South African segregation laws she and her twin sister Fatima campaigned for change. Rahima was a shop steward and in 1951 she married a fellow activist Dr. Hassen “Ike” Mohamed Moosa who had already stood trial for treason. They move to Johannesburg and lived here and had four children.  Both of them were very active in the South African Indian Congress. Together the two of them helped organise the 1955 Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter. The following year Rahima, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Helen Joseph and Lillian Ngoyi led 20,000 women on 9 August 1956 to demonstrate against the the further strengthening of the Apartheid Pass Laws. This day is now celebrated annually as National Women's Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rahima_Moosa
THE MEANING OF RAHIMA MOOSA
Rahima Moosa was a typical black South African woman who had very little formal education. She dropped out of school in standard nine and began working at Fattis and Monis at the age of 18. She grew up in a liberated Islamic environment with a father who was politically supportive of his three daughters, Rahima, her twin sister Fatima and her younger sister, Farida. Her father particularly influenced her. He was a great admirer of Gandhi and this admiration was communicated to the young Rahima who became active in labour politics at an early age. She began organising her fellow workers in the Cape Town Food and Canning Worker’s Union. She caught the attention of the then president of the Union, Ray Alexander and was soon elected its branch secretary. She joined the South African Communist Party and was an enthusiastic vendor of the Party mouthpiece, The Guardian. As a trade unionist, she became very familiar with the plight of women workers, particularly African women, who were forced to carry passes.
Her political experience moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg after she married Dr Hassen “Ike” Mohamed Moosa. Together with him, she joined the Transvaal Indian Congress and the couple made an enormous contribution to the TIC when it embarked on the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign. They were also prominent in organising the Congress of the People and in collecting signatures to the Freedom Charter.
The essential meaning of Rahima Moosa is that one does not need outstanding education or high status to become a leader. Despite lacking this, she embellished the chronicles of South African history and contributed magnificently to the liberation of the country. Her acknowledgement came as a result of her service to her fellow human beings and her commitment to equality and justice.
It is to thousands of such ordinary women that South Africa today owes its democratic status. She was in the final stages of pregnancy when she was nominated to lead the historic march on the Union Buildings in 1956. She was nervous about participating in the march and consulted her father in the matter, who ordered, “Go on the march even if your baby is born on the pavement.” And so the image survives, of a sari-clad 34-year-old leader, together with Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, and Sophia Williams confronting the white ogre in the Union Building. It is this woman that we celebrate at this annual lecture inaugurated at this university.
Where does Rahima’s great courage and political wisdom come from? It comes firstly from her experience of understanding the oppression suffered by her fellow African workers inflicted with passes. It also comes from her father’s Gandhianism, communicated to her through his understanding of the Satyagraha creed, as an invincible weapon against oppression.
Rahima found the Gandhian worldview very appropriate to the struggle she was venting through her trade unionism. Gandhi clarified the roots of poverty and inequality in the simple terms in which he enunciated it.
Gandhi predicted in the second quarter of the twentieth century that industrial capitalism governing the world would leave humanity in a soulless mess. Rahima saw in her times the signs of this “soulless mess” and dedicated herself to rescuing her country from this mess and if alive today, she would be at the helm of civil society movements waging battles on so many fronts in our country today against this mess and they are slowly winning.
Rahima was probably as much influenced by Karl Marx as she was by MK Gandhi. They were both early critiques of industrialisation. As a trade unionist, she saw the truth in Gandhi’s foresight when he rejected industrialisation on moral and economic grounds that it was based on colonial exploitation and bred unemployment and inequality in the colonies.
Rahima was inspired by Gandhi’s emphasis on the power of the individual’s strength to overcome the material tyranny of the oppressed when she clearly defied the racist governments of the United Party and thereafter the National Party that succeeded it.
She was passionately and courageously opposed to the entire bedrock of racism. She appreciated the Gandhian principle of unity and the invincible power it generated among the exploited and tyrannised.
She saw this power inhibited among the workers, so long as they remained individuated and divided, but once united, she saw how they could conquer the seemingly unconquerable. Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement between 1906 and 1913 demonstrated this to her. She could not but have been inspired by the gigantic march of Indian mineworkers in 1913.
She was also inspired and activated by such Gandhian utterances, as "Man's ultimate aim is the realisation of God and all his activities, social, political, religious have to be guided by the ultimate vision of God. Serving others is part of this endeavour. The only way to find God, is to serve others.”
This was the moral imperative to which she submitted and which accounts for her leadership. Ultimately three forces contributed in her being, Marxism, Gandhianism and the Islamic family environment in which she was raised.
Prof Fatima Meer November 2006 http://www.dac.gov.za/speeches/other/Speech30Nov06.htm