Cape Town – Judge Essa Moosa died peacefully on Sunday morning after a short illness, a family spokesperson confirmed.
Moosa died at his family home at 11:15.
“I feel that we have lost a part of us,” fellow human rights campaigner Mansoor Jaffer said of his comrade of more than 30 years.
“We forged bonds through the anti-apartheid struggle in the trenches.”
He said the late judge was the first port of call for thousands of people who were jailed in the 1980s.
“The first advice that many in the Cape were given was to phone Essa. He was like a beacon of hope in dark times.”
Gadija Vallie said she had worked for Moosa for half her life, as part of a human rights task team assisting political prisoners and detainees.
She was too emotional to speak when reflecting on their time together.
On Friday, the Presidency had issued a statement wishing the ailing judge well.
In a statement at the time, the Presidency said, “He’s done a lot for his country. As a nation let us keep the Judge and his family in our thoughts and prayers. We wish him good health and comfort and wish the family strength as they support him and shower him with love and care,” said President Jacob Zuma.
Moosa hailed from District Six in Cape Town, which was flattened by the apartheid government. He went on to become a human rights lawyer, challenging apartheid violations such as detention without trial, and was a founding member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers.
He retired as a judge of the Western Cape High Court in 2011 and in 2013 he was appointed head of a unit that would investigate complaints against members of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations, better known as the Hawks.
The funeral will be held on Sunday afternoon at his family home in Rondebosch East.