Kotane was born in Tamposstad (Pella) , near Groot Marico. His parents were peasant farmers. Kotane joined the African National Congress in 1928 and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) a year later. He subsequently became a full time worker for the CPSA. He was one of the accused in the Treason Trial of 1956. Kotane went into exile in the early 1960 but continued to serve as Treasurer of the ANC and General-Secretary of the (renamed) South African Communist Party. Like J.B. Marks, he was buried at Heroes's Acre at Novodevichy cemetary in Moscow. The ANC sent a wreath for his funeral which read " To Comrade Moses Kotane, courageous and beloved leader of the oppsessed people of South Africa, Hamba Kahle". In March 2015 his remains were repatriated back to South Africa, at the request of his widow Rebecca Kotane and he was reburied at Pella. Kotane was a significant figure in the early history of both the ANC and CPSA.