THE brutality of apartheid often resulted in thousands of black casualties who needed serious medical attention, which was at times hard to come by as doctors feared helping victims of state-sponsored violence.
But the oath to protect life and an urge to fight an unjust system distinguished Port Elizabeth’s Dr Jayaseelan Moodliar as one of the few to put both his personal and professional lives on the line.
Elected president of the then influential Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (Pebco) in 1980, Moodliar was at the forefront of the black resistance against the white government.
The launch of the UDF in Cape Town on August 20 1983 was dubbed a “turning point in the struggle for freedom” by the ANC. It was a non-racial national movement comprising civic, church, youth, women’s, workers’ and sports bodies.
“I was part of the UDF’s committee of concern which went around Eastern Cape towns, including Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown and East London, encouraging people not to vote in favour of the tricameral parliament,” Moodliear said.
The tricameral parliament introduced in 1983 included a house of assembly for whites, a house of representatives for coloureds and a house of delegates for Indians – each chamber was encouraged to come up with laws pertaining to its racial group.
Black South Africans had no such representation.
“As part of the UDF, we attended a summit in Harare [Zimbabwe] about child health in South Africa in 1987. We met [President Jacob] Zuma, [former president Thabo] Mbeki and [late ANC president Oliver] Tambo.
“That summit was a cover-up for us to have a meeting with our leaders. But we did discuss child health and mortality in South Africa. After the summit we held a meeting with OR [Tambo] on how to carry on fighting [apartheid],” Moodliar said.
“It was not easy practising medicine during apartheid. Not many doctors were prepared to help victims of state-sponsored atrocities. But I was helping victims who came from as far as Grahamstown and other outside areas. Our practice was in Korsten.
“We also helped victims of the Langa Massacre. We were targeted by the Special Branch.”
Moodliar, 77, retired in 2009 and lives in his Summerstrand home with his wife Manogari.
“I was not looking for anything. I didn’t expect any reward, fame or fortune. I just did what I had to do.”