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Farewell Moses, people’s journalist, and staunch defender of Israel

  • CommunitySAZFMosesMoyo
The community has lost one of its real-life heroes with the sudden and tragic passing of social activist and pro-Israel lobbyist, Moses Moyo, last week.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Nov 01, 2018

Moyo, 39, passed away after a short illness. His untimely death has left an indescribable void for communal leaders who are still in shock.

“He was like a son to me,” said Mark Hyman, the co-Chairman of the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI). “I adored him, mostly for his integrity, commitment, and love for the Jewish people, our values, and our religion. He had an aura of goodwill, and love for all humanity. It shone out of him.”

The kippah and tzitzit-wearing, Zimbabwean-born Moyo, was a member of the inner city Impact for Christ Ministries Church. Moyo hailed from Bulawayo, and lived in Kensington for many years. He was married, and had four children. He was a committed journalist, and the founding editor and publisher of the Inner City Gazette, Tshwane Gazette, and RSA Today.

Moyo was the communal leadership’s go-to man, and was known as a go-getter and a unrelenting pillar of support.

When it came to pro-Israel solidarity marches or even anti-Israel protests, he was there waving an Israeli flag. He would be on Israel’s side, and with the Jewish community at communal art exhibitions, openings, and Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) demonstrations.

He would be seen shedding a tear at events commemorating Yom Hazikaron or Yom Ha Shoah, or celebrating during Yom Yerushalayim or Yom Ha‘atzmaut. Moyo never missed an opportunity to demonstrate his belief in Israel, and his love of the local community.

He was described as “completely fearless” when it came to support for Israel.

A classic “Moses moment”, said Wendy Kahn, the National Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, was when he was seen handing out copies of his special edition Inner-City Gazette newspaper which included numerous articles opposing the resolution to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel.

“Amid threats and intimidation, he fearlessly handed out copies at the [ANC] elective conference in December, showing that he was not going to take this matter lying down,” said Kahn.

Those closest to him said this week that Moyo had a passion for causes aimed at uplifting the poor, and those living in inner cities. His love for his fellow man knew no bounds.

Renny Plitt, the former Chairperson of the Johannesburg Property Management Association, said he first met Moyo about 8 to 10 years ago, when he got wind that Moyo was vocalising support for landlords. Plitt said he was initially suspicious of him as “something of a rabble-rouser”.

Plitt’s mind changed once Moyo went to see him about establishing the Gazette. “We chatted about it, and I agreed to back the publication with six-months’ worth of advertising from my company, African Housing Corporation, guaranteeing him an income for six months.” Until today, the company pays for regular advertising, taking up part of the front page, and part of the third page.

Plitt said Moyo regularly attended fora in the inner city, expressing his opinions on the matters discussed, and making positive contributions.

“I worked with him in running pro-Israel adverts, paying for them at a reduced price. He became progressively more pro-Israel as time passed, probably as a result of his faith,” said Plitt.

“He told me that his church group would arrange a protest against the treatment of Israel by South Africa every Friday, making sure never to exceed the amount needed for a group to be considered an illegal gathering.”

A community journalist to his core, he made it his business to turn social activism into a calling, and ultimately his life’s work.

Known as “the people’s journalist”, Moyo was also described this week by those who knew him as a “defender of the poor” and a “supporter of the underdog”, a “true humanist”.

Hyman, who is also the Chairman of Magen David Adom SA, first met Moyo in 2013 through Prophet Philip Banda, the head of the popular inner-city Impact for Christ Ministries. The ministry donated an ambulance to MDA, and Moyo accompanied the prophet to Israel for the handover ceremony.

Reeva Forman, the Chairperson of the Temple Israel Heritage Centre in Hillbrow, said Moyo often attended functions at the centre, and wrote about them in his newspaper. He would also attend shul services at Temple Israel.

They had common goals. “He believed in and promoted the centre’s core mission, which is to pursue justice, ubuntu, and a better world by fighting all forms of hatred of the other.”

“He believed in building peace in Hillbrow and the inner city. He was our VIP guest at shul on Shabbat Shuva this year, but sadly he was ill, and could not attend. I’ve lost a wonderful friend and a huge supporter of the heritage centre,” Forman said.

Kahn said she first got to know Moyo during IAW campaigns on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand.

“He was always there standing by our students, providing support and friendship. I remember, during IAW 2017, he started a celebratory circle around aggressive Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) members, singing Hebrew songs at the top of his voice. I remember the irate, red faces of the PSC leaders.”

Kahn said he had “fearlessly initiated” and driven regular Friday demonstrations with members of his church outside the Gauteng Legislature in support of Israel.

During September’s devastating fires in Johannesburg, Moyo called on the community to provide food for firefighters and hundreds of students who had been displaced. “My memory of Moses was charging around town with him in his bakkie to organise KFC meals for the 700 hungry students that night,” said Kahn.

“Moses was always looking out for us. He always had our back. We have lost a true friend.”

The South African National Editors’ Forum posted on Twitter, “The journalism fraternity has lost a committed comrade, but we are certain Moses’s legacy will live on. With his charming smile and quiet demeanour, Moses had an unparalleled passion for covering community news and putting issues that directly affect communities at the forefront. This made him hugely popular among city residents, especially those living in the Johannesburg metro.”

Journalists took to social media to express their sadness.

Former Eyewitness News Editor Katy Katopodis said on Facebook, “I’m so shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of a very good, kind, and decent man.” She said he was someone who was “always there” when needed, with his “warm words of support and friendship”, describing him as a “generous soul”, and a “beautiful spirit”.

Jovial Rantao, Group Ombudsman of Independent Media and a former journalist and editor, said on Facebook, “Am gutted. Good old Moses is gone! OMG! Moses was the people’s journalist. Always willing to listen, and always there to tell the story of the small man… His biggest weapons were, among others, his humility and his determination to tell the story of our cities and our country through the eyes of ordinary people. He gave voices to the voiceless.”

Moyo told the SA Jewish Report earlier this year why he had decided to take part in the 2018 Jerusalem Marathon. “In remembrance of loved ones who I have lost to cancer, and in support of community members in the inner city and colleagues battling the disease,” he said.

He was actively involved in many community projects, too many to list. He was also busy with the final edit of a book on his Christian Leadership Tour to Israel earlier this year.

A memorial for the late Moses Moyo took place on Thursday, 1 November, at the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg. The community is arranging another private memorial to honour his memory.

  • Additional reporting by Jordan Moshe.

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