Judge Essa Moosa was born on 8 February 1936 in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa. He qualified as a lawyer and was admitted to practise as such by the High Court of the Supreme Court of South Africa on 1 June 1962. He practised as a lawyer in Cape Town from 1 June 1962 to December 1995. He was the Director of the Planning Unit in the Department of Justice from 1 February 1996 to 31 December 1997. Its task was to produce a Strategic Plan for the Transformation of the Administrative of Justice in terms of the New Democratic Constitution of South Africa. It produced the Strategic Plan known as “Justice Vision 2000”.
In April 1998 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela as a judge of the High Court of the Supreme Court of South Africa and based in Cape Town. He retired officially from active service on 8 February 2011. He continues to hold the position of a judge and can be called upon, from time to time by the judiciary, to render service in his capacity as a judge.
As a practising lawyer spanning over a period of more than 30 years, he specialised in human rights issues. During the apartheid era, he challenged in court human right violations such as detention without trial, freedom of association, expression and movement, He also challenged in court security and emergency laws and regulations. He acted for a number of prominent anti-apartheid non-governmental and community-based organisations. He also represented leading anti-apartheid political and community activists who were detained without trial in terms of the security legislation and emergency regulations and those who were charged with various political offences.
He was the founding and executive member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and chaired its Human Rights Committee. After the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1990, he served as the Secretary of the Constitutional Committee of the ANC. The Constitutional Committee gave logistical support to the ANC negotiation team led by Nelson Mandela for the establishment of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. He also served as Electoral Agent for the ANC in the Western Cape region for the first democratic elections in South Africa held during April 1994.
He presently serves in a voluntary capacity as the chairperson of the Kurdish Human Right Action Group (KHRAG) which is based in Cape Town. It monitors the human rights violations of the Kurdish people more particularly in Turkey but generally in the Middle East. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the European Union Turkish Civic Commission (EUTCC) which is based in Brussels. It monitors Turkey’s compliance with the accession criteria for its admission to the European Union as a full member. He also serves as Chairperson of the International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) which was launched in Brussels on 3rd December 2012 in response to a joint call led by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and supported by other leading international figures for the resumption of dialogue between the Turkeys Government and the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Kurdish Question in Turkey.
He serves as trustee of the University of the Western Cape for more than 20 years. He also served as the Chairperson of the Council of the Peninsula Technicon and later as a member of the Council until the merger of the institute with the Cape Technicon under the name of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He was, among other, a founding member and trustee of the alternative community based media such as Bush Radio, Grassroots Newspaper, Saamstaan Newspaper (Southern Cape) and South Newspaper.
On 20 September 2012 he was awarded a Degree of Doctor of Law by the University of the Western Cape for his contribution to human rights generally and to the struggle particularly for democracy, freedom, equality and dignity in South Africa.