MJ Naidoo died on the 16th of June 1997, after he had attained his life long ambition to see the demise of the Apartheid State. A commitment that was dear to him all his life. His activism began at the age of 15, when he signed up as a member of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and participated in the Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946-9. During the 1950s he was a member of the Youth Congress and student leader at the University of Natal, assisting in the Defiance Campaign of 1952 and later in the organisation of the 1955 Kliptown Congress of the People.
During the 1960s after most national organisations were banned, and when arrests and trials were numerous, MJ served as a candidate attorney assisting with the support of political detainees. When the NIC was revived in 1972 he was elected as the Vice President and later as President, when the then President George Sewpershad was banned by the State. In this period MJ became an active campaigner for a wide range of organisations and campaigns including, the Democratic Lawyers Association (DLA), Tongaat Civic Association and the La Mercy Ratepayers Association.
MJ was detained in 1980 at the height of the school’s boycotts and served with a banning order in 1982. His occupation of the British Consulate in 1984 to evade detention without trial, together with five other members of the United Democratic Front (UDF), made international headlines and highlighted the injustices perpetrated by the Apartheid State. MJ was later detained and charged with treason, terrorism and furthering the aims of a then banned African National Congress (ANC). He was later released from detention after the State’s case collapsed, and continued with his political campaigning. When the ANC was unbanned in 1990, MJ joined the Merebank branch, where he remained committed to the Branch and to the ideals of the Freedom Charter.
In addition to his political involvement MJ was well known for his selfless determination to serve as a lawyer for poorer members of society who could little afford to pay for his legal services -always choosing to serve the interest of justice over his own interests.
In naming this Foundation after him, we pay tribute to the way he chose to live his life, with integrity, as a tireless and often lone campaigner for justice as well as his unflinching will to do “the right thing” no matter what the consequences and personal costs. A fighting spirit, we will like to emulate and use as a role model which we take into this new era of social change. Let his life be our message.