By Zubeida Jaffer
I write this message to comrades and friends who gathered in Athlone today to mourn and celebrate the life of Judge Essa Moosa. I could not attend the memorial service because I am in Bloemfontein but feel the need tonight to share in this moment.
I am so sad to have lost someone with whom I have journeyed for more than 30 years. Since that day in February 1980 when I first met Essa, he has been a constant in my life. I was a volunteer at Grassroots, the community newspaper and he served as a trustee then. I grieve as we once again say goodbye to someone who was always ready to serve.
My heart breaks as I realize that we have no one yet to fill his shoes. Is there a lawyer in the Cape that we can run to when communities face injustice or our freedom fighters are neglected? Who will step up to the plate?
At the same time, we can pause and acknowledge that we had the honour of walking side by side with someone who was infinitely kind yet firm, never rude and always sought consensus. We are an injured nation and it is in the simplicity of his kindness and civility that we learn the greatest lesson.
Today we are confronted with arrogance, greed, corruption, rudeness and violent conduct. Those of us who believe in a common humanity and a fair and just country will have to push back against this behavior and make sure that the values that guided many of us take center- stage once again. In his personal conduct, Essa fully exemplified those long-held values. His death gives each one of us cause to reflect on our own behaviour and ask whether we are providing the leadership to take our families and our country forward. Are we spreading doom and gloom or are we inspiring others to stay the course?
Countries go through cycles and we are going through a particularly low dip at the moment. To climb out of the deep hole we are in will require patience and perseverance. Three weeks ago, Essa made me promise that I will continue to fight for justice and fairness in this beautiful country of ours. Despite his physical weakness, his spirit remained strong when he said: “Remember we do not do this for ourselves but we do this for the next generation.”
In his memory, let us walk tall in the knowledge that those of our generation did what we had to do when we had to do it. Let us remain hopeful and present to guide the next generation to do the same, one day at a time.
Essa, wherever you are tonight, your kindness, your ready smile and your ability to be amused at our own stupidity will help take me through these difficult months that lie ahead as I and others grieve your passing. May your family be comforted in the knowledge that we will carry you in our hearts forever.
Until we meet again…..