Goolam Vahed
Goolam Vahed
At primary school in Dundee in 1933. Motala on the right, second row from front, second from right.
At primary school in Dundee in 1933. Motala on the right, second row from front, second from right.
Motala (front right) talking to NT Naicker at the 1956 Treason Trial. Monty Naicker is in the middle and Nelson Mandela and Yusuf Dadoo at the back.
Motala (front right) talking to NT Naicker at the 1956 Treason Trial. Monty Naicker is in the middle and Nelson Mandela and Yusuf Dadoo at the back.
With Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela at the unveiling of the Gandhi Memorial in Pietermaritzburg in 1993.
With Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela at the unveiling of the Gandhi Memorial in Pietermaritzburg in 1993.

Durban - Historian and author Goolam Vahed has kept the legacy of political stalwart Chota Motala alive for future generations with the launch of his latest book.

Titled Chota Motala - A Biography of Political Activism in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Vahed’s work provides insight into this giant South African activist and icon with the aim of preserving history.

Five years of research began yet another labour of love for Vahed, who authored Monty Naicker: Between Reason and Treason and Inside Indian Indenture: A South African Story, 1860-1914. 

He is currently working on A History of the Present: A Biography of Indian South Africans 1990 - 2018 with Ashwin Desai.

“A biography of Dr Motala had been started in Pietermaritzburg by a group comprising his family and former colleagues. They were unable to complete the project and asked if I could write the biography."

“I agreed mainly because it was clear to me that there had been excessive focus on the Natal Indian Congress in Durban but too little on Pietermaritzburg, so I saw this as a means of filling this void in the historiography,” said Vahed, who sifted through old newspapers, consulted the archives, and examined Motala’s collection of articles, photographs and writings.

“One cannot rush this process and I hope that the final product reflects what was involved in writing this book.”

He described Motala as a “critical thinker” who put many of his thoughts on paper and these, Vahed added, revealed a man who disapproved of such things as the commercialisation of medicine, racism, the neo-liberal agenda of the post-apartheid period and corruption and nepotism.

“My hope is that these core human values, this determination to confront power-mongering and gratuitous capitalist accumulation, will be what is remembered - Chota Motala and others of his ilk deserve not to become embattled in current party politics.”

Vahed said that in writing the book, he learnt a great deal about Pietermaritzburg and its rich history.

“I was privileged to meet some outstanding individuals, such as CD Moodley, Babu Baijoo, Yunus Carrim, Yusuf Bhamjee, Dr Krish Moodley, Dr B Harryparsad, Dr Papoo Cassimjee, and many others, and would like to thank them for giving of their time, sharing their experiences, and enriching my life in various ways.”

He also thanked Rabia Motala, also known as Choti, for asking him “to complete the biography of a very remarkable man, Dr Chota Motala”.

Published by UKZN Press, it is available at, among others, Exclusive Books and Adams Books or www.loot.co.za

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