Strini Moodley

Black Consciousness campaigner


Strinivasa Moodley, journalist and political activist: born Durban, South Africa 29 October 1946; twice married (two sons, two daughters); died Durban 27 April 2006.

It is an irony of South African political history that the banning of a whole generation of "liberation" activists and their organisations in the 1960s led to the rise of the militant, outspoken and uncompromising Black Consciousness movement in the early 1970s. Its promoters scorned apartheid's divisions and its African, Indian and mixed-race members were proudly "black". Among the most eloquent and dedicated of them was Strini Moodley.

A product of middle-class Indian society in Natal, albeit the son of left-wing parents, he attended Sastri College and Natal's Indian university college to study English and drama, only to be expelled as a militant student leader. At this time he inspired the formation of a radical black theatre movement, first through a student drama group, Clan, then the radical Theatre Council of Natal and a national black theatre union.

Black students' membership of the white-Liberal-led National Union of South African Students was anathema to him and he helped to end Nusas's long and honourable history by his work for the blacks-only South African Students Organisation, for which he issued newsletters and publications. His prominence in Saso and the growing Black Consciousness Movement led, in 1973, to the inevitable five-year banning order, which refused him any political or social life and confined him to Durban. The following year, with eight other Black Consciousness activists, he was put on trial under the all-purpose Terrorism Act and sentenced in 1976 to five years on Robben Island. Steve Biko, their leader and a defence witness, died in 1977 after police beatings.

On "the island" Moodley and his comrades presented a problem to the authorities by their refusal to accept prison rules or to conform to the standards upheld in the interests of better treatment. Moodley and others were sent for several months to Nelson Mandela's "B-Section" in the vain hope that the counsels of these élite prisoners would prevail. They didn't and Moodley was released in 1981 "bloody but unbowed".

He told afterwards how he could not then accept Mandela's willingness to conciliate his "white oppressors", though it was this policy that led to the latter's talks with President P.W. Botha and the negotiations with his successor F.W. de Klerk which delivered black South Africa from its centuries of bondage.

Black Consciousness followers formed the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) in 1979 and later the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa) and Moodley directed their publicity and took an active role until the mid-1990s. Their black exclusivism was at variance with the public mood and their electoral impact was slight.

A revolutionary who refused to accept that his cause had triumphed, Moodley became an active consultant to Non-Governmental Organisations that met his high demands. These included Umtapo, of which he was a founder. Its aim is to contribute

to the empowerment of oppressed people and the expansion of a self-reliant ethos in a country where the greatest majority of its people suffered serious exploitation and dehumanisation.

Despite his criticism of former comrades who have joined the "recycled black - read African if you prefer - bourgeoisie", Moodley has been mourned by many of them. Sibusiso Ndebele, premier of KwaZulu-Natal, called him "a true son of Africa".

Randolph Vigne

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HP Technical Support Analyst

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding IT Manag...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst

£400 - £500 per day: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Logistics/WMS - Immedia...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000

£34000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Bus...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable