Carol Moses: Struggle activist with Karoo farm roots

After a militant youth in Oudtshoorn, she rose to the national stage

17 March 2019 - 00:00 By Chris Barron

Carol Moses, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 50, was a seasoned anti-apartheid activist by the time she was 17, when she wrote her matric exams in jail after a two-week hunger strike.
She had been detained no fewer than seven times by then, starting in 1983 when she was 14 and in grade 9.
She was locked up for 14 days under the Internal Security Act after leading a march in her hometown of Oudtshoorn against the newly imposed tricameral parliament.
When released she helped launch a branch of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) in the Karoo town, became one of the youngest activists of the newly formed United Democratic Front, helped start the Oudtshoorn Youth Congress and was involved in organising rent and consumer boycotts for the ratepayers' organisation.
While still at school she joined the executive committee of the anti-apartheid community newspaper Saamstaan (stand together), which faced constant security police harassment until in 1990 its funding from the Catholic church in Germany and the Netherlands stopped and it had to close.
In 1985 she mobilised students from three high schools in Oudtshoorn to join a national three-month classroom boycott called by Cosas.
Oudtshoorn in the 1980s, with its highly conservative white community, was a particularly unforgiving environment for anti-apartheid activists. The town was the south Cape and Karoo headquarters of the police and security police, and as the home of the South African Defence Force's infantry school and an infantry battalion it had a heavy military presence.
Anti-apartheid activists like Moses were followed, harassed, threatened and arrested.
In 1986 she was detained in George prison for 10 months under the state of emergency regulations. She led a two-week hunger strike to force the authorities to allow her and fellow student detainees to write their matric exams in jail.
She passed with university exemption and went to the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where she subsidised her social sciences studies by working as a resource officer in the UWC development and public affairs office.
She helped start UWC's first student newsletter, Student Voice, and became the editor. She encouraged the university to join the South African Student Press Union, which until then had been confined to white campuses, and became a leading advocate for its "Freedom of the Airwaves" campaign. In 1991 she was elected as the union's first black and first woman president.
Under her leadership, activists with no media background fashioned, managed, controlled and ran a publication and radio station.
She worked as a media assistant for the ANC in the Western Cape in preparation for the elections in 1994, after which she became media and public relations officer for the Early Learning Resources Unit.
Moses was born in Oudtshoorn on April 7 1968, one of seven children who grew up on a farm outside the town where their parents worked as labourers.
Loud, extrovert, feisty and fearless, it didn't take her long to join the front line of student resistance to apartheid in Oudtshoorn and become one of its most recognisable figures. Nobody could work up a crowd quite like she could.
Her fighting spirit continued after she joined the public sector in 1997 as communications and transformation manager at the department of water affairs. She also served as deputy director of communications in the departments of environmental affairs and of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. She was manager of the communications directorate at the latter department.
Now, instead of apartheid her targets were sexism, incompetence, nepotism and corruption. But her attitude was as uncompromising as ever.
When a regional manager ordered her to leave the meeting and the department after a typically spirited dispute she told him: "This is not your grandfather's corner shop where you can hire and fire people."
Moses died of complications following colon surgery. She is survived by her husband, Clive Stuurman, and their son, Ché. Their daughter, Khanyisa, died in a motor accident at the age of eight in 1995. 1968-2019

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