Obituary: PMB community stalwart L.S. Moodley

2008-12-23 00:00

A Well-known community stalwart, Lutchman Singaram (L.S.) Moodley, died in hospital yesterday after a long illness. He was 89.

Moodley, who took part in just about every facet of public life in the city for over 60 years, had been out of the limelight since 1988 because of his poor health.

His CV ran into several pages, starting from the age of 20 when he cut his civic teeth as a member of the Maritzburg Indian Technical Students’ Society.

Three years later, in 1943, he became the secretary of the Indian Poor Relief Society. This set the pattern of his life. He was chairman, deputy chairman or secretary of a host of organisations, including hospital boards, Indian religious and cultural organisations, education bodies, child welfare and mental health institutions, the national crime prevention institute, Keep Pietermaritzburg Clean and the city’s Tourism Association.

Considered a political conservative during the apartheid era, Moodley served for several years as a member within the tricameral system’s Indian Local Affairs Committee (Ilac), an appendage to the white city council. However, because of his stature within the community and his wide range of good works, he was respected by individuals across the political spectrum.

He and struggle stalwart A.S. Chetty were once best friends and community members would often witness their exasperation with each other at public meetings when they radically differed on an issue. However, in all their interactions there was mutual respect.

The Pietermaritzburg City Council conferred the title of alderman on Moodley in 1991 in recognition of his service to the local community. He was proud of the fact that he was the first Indian in the country to be made an alderman. In 1988 he received civic honours when Pietermaritzburg celebrated its 150th anniversary. In 1987 he received the Indian Academy of South Africa’s prestigious Nadaraja Award for service to mankind.

Moodley was also a tireless administrator and served on several bodies serving soccer, lawn tennis, table tennis, cricket, darts and swimming. In his youth, he was a keen cricketer and soccer player and for a time served as a soccer referee.

In an interview with The Witness earlier this year, Moodley said he wanted to be remembered as “a public worker”. He felt that his greatest achievement was inviting Sir Edmund Hillary to meet the Pietermaritzburg Indian community in 1961. Hillary, who conquered Everest in 1953, visited the city as a guest of Natal University and Moodley sought the help of the vice chancellor, Dr E.G. Malherbe, to organise the meeting.

Moodley said he derived his greatest joy from working on the city council, on which he served for 25 years.

Born in 1920 in the Mattison’s Farm area to a farming family, Moodley was the oldest of nine children. He attended the Wesleyan Mission School until standard three and completed standard six at the York Road School, now Woodlands High School.

He went to work immediately, starting as a barman at the Royal Bar. He served as a wine steward at the country club and as a receiving clerk for a market agent.

In 1943 he joined printers L. Backhouse (Pty) Ltd as a machinist. He became a sales representative in 1977 and retired in 1985 after 42 years’ unbroken service.

Moodley is survived by two sons and two daughters, his companion Shirley Ellery, five sisters and brother. The funeral takes place at the TPA Hall in Balhambra Way, Northdale from 11 am to 1.30 pm today, followed by a cremation service at Mountain Rise at 2 pm.

— Witness Reporter.

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