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Kay Moonsamy

The Order of Luthuli in

Kay Moonsamy Awarded for:
His outstanding contribution to the fight for democracy and freedom in South Africa. As a trade unionist during the apartheid era, he was among the leading people who actively fought against the apartheid system.

Profile of Kay Moonsamy

Kay Moonsamy was born in Durban on 5 July 1926 and was the eldest of seven children. He started work at the tender age of 14, and as a result of his race he earned an unbearably meagre salary. While working, Moonsamy became exposed to trade-union activism.

He believed that the deplorable working conditions that he had to contend with daily constituted injustice and had to be opposed at all costs. As he became deeply involved in trade union activities, Moonsamy moved through the ranks to become a prominent member in the South African Communist Party (SACP) and African National Congress (ANC).

Moonsamy’s involvement in the fight for social justice in South Africa was confirmed when he joined the Natal Box, Broom and Brush Workers’ Union. The union pushed for reasonable wage increments in the industry. Many companies were forced to up wages from an average of 15 shillings a week to two pounds 10 shillings. Although still young at the time, Moonsamy was usually at the forefront of minimum wage strikes.

Not surprisingly, his union activism gained political undertones; he left the presidency of the union in 1945 to join the mainstream anti-apartheid movement. He was part of the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign organised by the Natal Indian Congress and the Transvaal Indian Congress.

Moonsamy was arrested and spent some time in prison as a result of his involvement in the protest against the Ghetto Act, one of the many controversial apartheid laws which imposed restrictions on the movement of black people. After his release from prison he doubled his anti-apartheid efforts, becoming deeply involved in the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

As one of the MK operatives, he was dedicated to executing strategies intended to undermine the apartheid government. He was a man dedicated to the idea of social justice. Moonsamy was elected as National Treasurer of the SACP in 1997 and served as a Member of Parliament from 1999 to 2009.