/ 14 June 2010

200 Young South Africans: Civil Society

Castro Ngobese

Spokesperson: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

Soon after he joined the National union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) as its national spokesperson in June last year, Castro Ngobese sparked controversy with a statement calling for the nationalisation of the wealth of South Africa’s richest man, Patrice Motsepe, and ANC struggle hero Tokyo Sexwale.

The statement was issued after the Sunday Times published South Africa’s rich list, revealing that Motsepe’s assets total a whopping R14,2-billion.

Brought up in the dusty township of Chesterville in KwaZulu-Natal, Ngobese, one of those who played a role in bringing Jacob Zuma to power in the ANC and as the country’s president, served as national spokesperson for the Young Communist League for four years before joining Numsa last year.

He says his involvement in politics is not motivated by money.

“I don’t see myself as working. For me, it’s a community service. People now join our movement for material rewards.

Some leaders are obsessed in making headlines. That’s the danger facing our country today.” — Matuma Letsoalo

Lunch spot: Bree Street Taxi Rank, Johannesburg

Eusebius McKaiser

Political and Social Analyst

Eusebius McKaiser could variously be described as a public intellectual, an analyst, a commentator or a moral philosopher. But labels don’t concern him.

“What matters to me is getting to grips with the social and political topics that matter, in ways that make people sit up and take notice,” he says.

McKaiser writes a Friday column for Business Day, and presents a weekly late-night politics and morality show on Talk Radio 702. He’s also working on his first book, “an autobiographical account of what it was like for a black kid to belong to the first generation of coconuts to attend a former Model C school” . In the future, he plans to present a hard-hitting TV interview programme, modeled on the BBC’s HARDtalk, and then to enter party politics.

“Far too few academics — and especially philosophers — do enough to make themselves relevant.” We’re betting that’s one thing McKaiser won’t ever be accused of. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Wang Thai, Sandton

Francois Viljoen

Operations Manager: Open Africa

‘Africa’s story is not really being told to the world. It’s our role to go out to tell it,” says Francois Viljoen, operations manager for Open Africa, a 15-year-old NGO that develops self-help travellers’ routes throughout Southern Africa using small and emerging entrepreneurs from local communities.

Open Africa now has 56 routes that run through six countries, involve more than 2 000 small businesses and projects, and jointly employ more than 28 000 people. Their aim is to span the entire continent, from Cape Town to Cairo.

Viljoen, who has been involved in the organisation for five years now, says he has always had a passion for Africa. A short stint abroad made him realise how much he missed Africa and its people, and that his future lay in helping to develop the continent and bring its richness to the attention of the world.

He has travelled extensively in the southern part of the continent — “More than most people who live there” — and says the opportunity to travel is one of the perks of his job.

He left his hometown, Johannesburg, to study geography and environmental studies at Stellenbosch University, and has been in the Cape ever since.

This year he is studying for an MBA, to improve his management skills in order to benefit Open Africa.

He is adamant that we need to change the perception of Africa as the dark continent. “There are fantastic stories out there, stories that aren’t being told in the mainstream media. Africa has incredibly rich cultures and magnificent natural resources. It’s the birthplace of humanity.” — Tarryn Harbour

Lunch spot:The Brass Bell, Kalk Bay, Cape Town

Ishtar Lakhani

National Coordinator: One in Nine Campaign

The One in Nine Campaign is an unapologetically feminist collective of organisations and individuals working for social justice for women.

Ishtar Lakhani, the group’s national co ordinator, is responsible for mobilising direct action around particular cases of sexual violence, as well as organising programmes that serve to engage women activists in getting their word out in the media. She has ensured that important cases such as the Buyisiwe gang-rape case were well supported and reported, both outside the court and in the media.

Her upbringing makes her ideally suited to coordinate the innovative visual public campaigns that have become the trademark of the One in Nine Campaign.

Lakhani was weaned on activism and the arts. Her mother is a gender activist with a fine arts degree, her father ran the Communikon Theatre, which showcased protest theatre.

“I am a part of a collective struggle against patriarchy and fighting for a world where women have autonomy because I feel it is morally right,” she says. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Jasmyn’s, Richmond, Johannesburg

Natalie Jaynes

Western Cape Regional Director and Acting National Representative:
Gun Free South Africa

Natalie Jaynes regularly receives abusive emails and late-night phone calls. It’s part of a low-level campaign by pro-gun ownership groups to silence her organisation.

“We are not just an anti-gun group,” Jaynes says. “We have a radical vision that one day there will be no more guns in this country.” There are approximately four million guns in circulation in South Africa, Jaynes says, and the country is a significant arms exporter.

“We also have one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world, and the highest rate of gun-related femicide.”

Gun Free South Africa lobbies government to align the Firearms Control Act and the Criminal Procedure Act more closely with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Approximately 32 000 guns were handed in to the authorities during the most recent amnesty window. A drop in the ocean, perhaps, but Jaynes says: “Even one gun taken out of circulation is a victory for society.” — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: La Vie, Beach Road, Sea Point, Cape Town

Simangele Mabena

Education Coordinator: From
the Hip: Khulumakahle

Simangele Mabena finds she often gets lost in translation. As education coordinator for From the Hip: Khulumakahle (FTH:K) — a theatre company that integrates hearing and deaf performers — it’s to be expected.

It’s not that she can’t speak South African sign language, which she can, or that she doesn’t understand the theatre space intimately, which she definitely does.

It’s just that this kind of “miscommunication” happens organically when you bring sign, body and theatre language together in one experimental room. And that’s what makes integrated theatre so exciting to create, intensely interesting to perform and ultimately riveting to watch.

Mabena may have fallen into this particular position on her way to an MA in dramatic arts, but she’s always believed in drama as an effective educational tool.

It all started in 2006, with her work as a special-needs youth worker in Canada, and continued back home in Soweto, where she began volunteering to work with deaf youth, using drama processes to help them understand English literature better.

As education coordinator Mobena oversees FTH:K’s Tell-Tale Signs programme, designed to lead deaf learners through a three-tier programme that will prepare them for the challenging world of the performing arts. For Mobena, this means conducting weekly classes at deaf schools and institutions, providing additional after-school training for promising learners and eventually integrating successful graduates into the company. She also helps to develop and plan the curriculum for each level.

It’s not an easy job for a 26-year-old, but it’s one that this 2008 Mandela Rhodes scholar is more than capable of juggling, even while she plans a deaf performance and educational tour through four provinces this year.

And after that? Well, she would like to get sign language passed as South Africa’s official 12th language.

Here’s betting she will. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Knead, Muizenberg

Sbu Zikode

President: Abahlali basemjondolo

Sbu Zikode says he learnt about “leadership, manhood and patriotis after joining the Boy Scouts in grade three” while growing up in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Estcourt.

Today, as a family man and activist heading one of the largest social movements to emerge after apartheid (the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has about 20 000 members), he remains very much a boy scout — clean-cut, soft-spoken and trying to use meagre resources innovatively to ensure survival.

Ensuring survival, for the communities ABM represents, means challenging government in the fight for the housing rights of the most marginalised.

Zikode,35, dropped out of his first year of law studies at the then university of Durban Westville because of a shortage of funds and worked in odd jobs — as a clothing salesman and petrol pump attendant.

Initially an ANC branch executive member of Ward 25 at the Kennedy Road settlement where he lived, Zikode became disillusioned with party politics.

ABM, born out of a spontaneous blockade of the Kennedy, Road settlement by angry residents, bases its philosophy on “living politics” — that is, the everyday politics of poverty and squalor pervasive in shack settlements around the country.

Under his stewardship, ABM has made steady gains for housing rights, including last year’s Constitutional Court victory striking down the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of the Re-emergence of Slums Act.

Since then, an ethno-political attack on ABM at Kennedy Road in September last year has seen Zikode living in a safe house and the movement teetering.

Despite the heavy toll, Zikode remains philosophical. “ABM was born out of people’s suffering and struggle,” he says.

“The attacks were too, and have allowed us to look at ourselves again as a movement – to remain responsive and dynamic”. —Niren Tolsi

Lunch spot: Centre Court, Durban

Gina Snymanl

Head of the Detention Monitoring Unit: Lawyers for Human Rights

Gina Snyman’s work is unique on the African continent. An attorney, Snyman heads the detention monitoring unit of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).

“[The unit] is the only one of its kind, in that it offers assistance to people in immigration detention, not people who are awaiting trial or sentencing,” she says. “Immigration detention is very specific because these people are detained just because they are foreign. This shouldn’t be a punishment, as the issue is purely administrative.”

Snyman, who joined LHR in 2008, says there is a great deal of abuse in South Africa of migrant workers and asylum seekers, despite the protection afforded them by the law.

On behalf of LHR Snyman has brought to court many precedent-setting matters, obtaining judgments restricting detention without a warrant and detention for more than 120 days.

She has an LLB from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan university and an LLM in human rights and democratisation in Africa from the university of Pretoria and has worked with the Legal Aid Board and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation. —Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: Ant Café, Melville, Johannesburg

Rebecca Pursell

Human and Social Development Specialist

Rebecca Pursell is a social crusader who fights for the support of orphans and unprotected children. Sadly, the children are many and the resources few, but this doesn’t stop Pursell from ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens get the services they need and so rightly deserve.

Armed with an honours degree in social work and two masters degrees, one in forced migration, the other in public health, Pursell is not about to let ignorance get in the way of effective implementation.

When she’s not working on the Reducing Exploitive Child Labour in Southern Africa project or coordinating projects that strengthen services for children who may be used in trafficking, she’s making sure that her extensive research and reports lead to tangible changes on the ground. At 31, it’s not an easy job to take home, but it’s one that has the potential to grow a nation of well-adjusted citizens. And that’s worth the fight. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Service Station, Melville, Johannesburg

Reverend NatalieSimons-Arendsel

Chaplain: St Cyprian’s Grammar
School for Girls

Every year the World Economic Forum selects 200 to 30 extraordinary individuals to form an international community that will have an impact on the global future. In 2007, the Reverend Natalie Simons-Arendse, a girl from the Cape Flats with a dream of changing the world, was one of 30 South Africans honoured in this way.

As one of the youngest priests in the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, and one of very few women, the 33-year-old reverend is proud to serve, whether as an intern for the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, or as chaplain at St Cyprian’s Grammar School for Girls – her old alma mater.

Driven by her passion for youth development, Simons-Arendse continues to facilitate Face to Face/Faith to Faith – an international multi-faith youth leadership programme that brings teenagers from different countries and backgrounds together to discuss issues of peace, violence and social responsibility. Hers is a world vision in which xenophobia doesn’t exist and tolerance is a way of life. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Chai Yo, Mowbray, Cape Town

Toufeeq Thomas

Programme Manager: Centre for Early
Childhood Development

It’s strange how destiny works. Growing up on the Cape Flats, experiencing the impact of gangsterism and drugs, Toufeeq Thomas planned “to stop complaining and do something about it” by becoming a lawyer. But as fate would have it Thomas ended up in a programme that would form part of a nationwide audit of early childhood development (ECD) centres.

At 25, Thomas has initiated and coordinated the first ECD projects in South Africa and coordinated two national ECD programmes that impact more than 30 000 children in underprivileged communities.

Having worked in the field as well as in academic institutions, Thomas strongly supports the view that 80% of early child development starts at home.

Now, if only he can create a sustainable model that focuses on education and skills development, he will be halfway to realising his dream of ensuring quality care and education for the country’s most vulnerable citizens. — Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Any Halaal restaurant in South Africa

Bronwyn Lace

Educational Officer: The Bag Factory

In her own artwork Bronwyn Lace is interested in space so the installation and performance artist, who runs an arts education programme at Newtown’s Bag Factory, is in the perfect place to explore some of her ideas.

One of the most cherished spaces in the local art world, the Bag Factory has hosted local and international artists since its inception in 1991 as an artists’ studio.

“Johannesburg provides an unbelievable canvas for an artist – it’s something that you can constantly respond to,” says Lace. “The things you do here do show and make a difference, even if it’s for a moment.”

Currently Lace is also working on a community building project in Sutherland, a small town in the middle of the Karoo, where SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), the second-largest telescope in the southern hemisphere, is based. For Lace it’s important to grow communities around instruments of such global interest. She runs the project in collaboration with SALT and the Southern African Astronomical Organisation.

“We have been trying over the past two years to build a relationship between the Earth, that is, the people on the ground, and the stars, via the astronomers and the telescope.”

To do that Lace works with the community to make and fly kites, at kite-flying festivals and a “land art” festival.

“Our project is trying to find both the physical and metaphorical space between the somewhat isolated and poor community of people in the town of Sutherland and the international observatory and telescope just outside of Sutherland,” she says. “We play with elements like the wind, sun and light. using these we create beautiful performance moments with the children and some of the community.” — Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: The Fat Olive, Muldersdrift, Gauteng

Yuri Ramkissoon

Deputy Director, Human Rights Commission

As senior researcher for environment and deputy director of the Human Rights Commission, Yuri Ramkissoon is the youngest deputy director in her department.

“I’ve built this portfolio from scratch,” she says. “It didn’t exist before I joined the commission.” What she does is monitor access to environmental rights, as well as to general socioeconomic rights.

Ramkissoon, who majored in environmental science and did both her honors and master’s in the field, says people have only recently begun to see the effects of the environment on human rights. Although not many people see the need for conservation and environmental preservation, she says environmental change and destruction affect the poorest of the poor. For that reason, in 2009 she gave a presentation to Parliament on the link between climate change and human rights.

“My challenge has been to make people see that link.” And she’s well on her way to doing just that. — Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: Wang Thai, Sandton

Cherith Sanger

Attorney: Women’s Legal Centre

For Cherith Sanger, who grew up in a politically aware household, the natural career path seemed to be human rights law. After completing her law degree she worked for Deneys Reitz, an experience she describes as “invaluable”, then joined the Women’s Legal Centre, an independently-funded non-profit law firm that offers women access to legal services.

Sanger focuses on gender-based and labour law and is passionate about expanding access to justice for the women who need it most. “This is what I want to do. I get to be creative around human rights, and work in campaigns.

It’s the perfect space for me.” The WLC, she explains, is about long-term work, not overnight successes, so she plans to continue her work in the gender sector for a very long time to come.– Tarryn Harbour

Lunch spot: Fat Cactus, Little Mowbray, Cape Town

Pippa Jarvis

Programme Director: Children’s Affairs, The love of Christ (TlC) Ministries

Pippa Jarvis was 16 when her mother, Thea, adopted two babies abandoned at Baragwanath Hospital in 1993, in addition to her five biological children. Seventeen years later, and the number of people on the Jarvis farmstead in Bronkhorstfontein, south of Johannesburg, has ballooned to 90, including Pippa’s six adoptees and three foster children, 40 babies, six staff and 28 volunteers.

The Jarvis farmstead turns out 100 meals three times a day, excluding baby food, guzzles R25 000-worth of petrol and costs R250 000 a month to run. Jarvis oversees the household, orders and monitors consumables, and interfaces with local and international donors.

The Jarvises have rescued, fostered, adopted or found homes for 720 babies since the early 1990s, when Thea was once spat at and punched by a neighbour who accused her of bringing property prices down by rescuing black children.

Sitting at a worn kitchen table, the smell of coffee and freshbaked apple-cinnamon pie flooding the air, Jarvis is the picture of serenity. “Loving and caring for babies and young children is an imperative. If they don’t feel they belong somewhere, or to someone, then they grow up with no sense of responsibility towards society,” she says.

Some of the babies brought to TLC are at death’s door, often owing to complications arising from being HIV positive.

“If you love and care for a child, it has a reason to fight to stay alive, and most babies do.”

TLC finds adoptive parents for most of the children, but some are so mentally and physically scarred that the Jarvises have no option but to adopt them themselves. Pippa’s fifth child, Jerome, is both deaf and HIV positive. She spent two years learning sign language so she could communicate with him.

Her 20-year vision for TLC is to turn it into a completely self-sufficient, ecologically sustainable children’s home. –Lionel Faull

Lunch spot:Mugg & Bean

Carina du Toit

Attorney: Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria

Since 2005 Carina du Toit’s work at the Centre for Child Law, based at the university of Pretoria, has revolved around fighting for children’s rights.

Her main focus is on the management of public interest litigation, but she is also involved in advocacy and law reform. Du Toit has extensive legal expertise in the area of parental abduction and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; she also provides separate legal representation for children in high-conflict family law matters.

Last year she was the attorney in one of the centre’s most prominent cases to date — seeking to have sections of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Amendment Act of 2007, which stipulates minimum sentences for children, including life imprisonment for teenagers, declared unconstitutional. — Yolandi Groenewald

Lunch spot: Tribeca, Brooklyn Design Square, Pretoria

Daniel Radebe

Social Worker: Teddy Bear Clinic,
Soweto Branch

Daniel Radebe stands out among his colleagues. As one of few male social workers he serves as a positive role model for the thousands of abused boys and girls who come to the Teddy Bear Clinic for protection and support.

It’s not an easy task for a 31-year-old, nor one that his degree in social work fully prepared him for, but it’s what he actively chooses to do every time he brings a teddy bear and smile to a child in need.

One of the hardest parts of his job is preparing the young victims for court. If they are too young or too scared, he will testify on their behalf.

And then there are the families he educates and supports, knowing full well that abuse affects entire communities, not just their children.

Luckily for them, Radebe is quite willing to stand and be counted among the women. —Cat Pritchard

Lunch spot: Woolworths Cafés

Eldine Joorst

Social Worker: Cape Flats Development Association

Overworked, under-resourced, sometimes dangerously exposed, Eldine Joorst is responsible for rescuing and removing neglected or abused children to places of safety in Grassy Park on the Cape Flats.

Sometimes parents or caregivers are so zonked out on drugs that they can’t care for their child.

Sometimes they’re just too poor, and the child isn’t going to school or receiving medical attention.

An assessment worker will have visited the family, conducted investigations and monitored the child’s welfare; removing the child is always a last resort. More often than not, parents don’t want their children taken away, and it’s Joorst who has to do it.

“When I go to a household I’ll explain why the case has been referred to me, why there was a need for us to investigate, and where the child is being removed to. But in some cases, when people are high or angry, there’s no time to explain. I just have to take the child and go.”

Joorst handles an average of 12 new cases a month. She has worked at the Cape Flats Development Association for three years, during which she has learned most of what she knows through experience. Her formal training, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), was nursing.

Living in Stellenbosch, she faces a daily 120 km commute. But she’s not complaining: “I enjoy being able to go home every day knowing I’ve made a difference in one child’s life.” — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Spur, Stellenbosch

Jen Thorpe

Feminist Writer and Researcher

“I’m a grassroots kinda girl,” Jen Thorpe will tell you, reflecting on her proudest achievement — a collaborative women’s writing project called “My First Time” , which went digital in February this year.

“I was thinking how the significant moments in a woman’s life are experienced as some sort of crisis. But there was very little space anywhere for women to talk about these. So every two weeks I invite submissions on a particular theme and the stories go up on the blog


“The stories I receive are powerful. Once the blog picks up, I plan to take writing workshops to places like Khayelitsha and rural areas in the Cape, where women’s voices are almost never heard in the mainstream.”

Thorpe also works as a researcher and database administrator for Rape Crisis Cape Town, an NGO that offers counselling and court support to rape survivors in the Mother City. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Caveau at The Mill, Newlands , Cape Town

Maria Botha and Liani Broodryk

Environmental activists: Ripples for Good

Lifelong friends Maria Botha and Liani Broodryk see water as a “magical medium” to unite people. The livewire ladies, together with their pooches, Dante and Katrin, have cycled, walked, hiked, kayaked and motorbiked 20 000 kilometres since 2004, raising awareness in communities about water quality.

“The state of our waterways in this country is atrocious, and yet everyone needs water to survive,” Broodryk says. “We like to blame government for our water problems, but people need to realise they can take responsibility for themselves and their immediate environment,” says Botha.

Travelling alone and unaided, Botha and Broodryk have been astonished by the warmth and generosity of the people of Southern Africa. Their worst experience was Broodryk’s motorbike crash in Mozambique last year, which left her in intensive care for three weeks.

Now that she has recovered the two intend to complete their Southern Africa trip, create a reality TV show, and then travel through the Americas. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Kitchen Bar, Design Quarter, Fourways, Sandton

Noluthando Ntlokwana0

Human Rights activist

Noluthando Ntlokwana is where she is because of a feeling that there were way too many human rights violations, even after the Constitution was introduced. And as assistant director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) South Africa, she’s able to do something about it.

Her work at the CFCR involves promoting the Constitution, interacting with government and Parliament on constitutional issues, monitoring developments that might affect the Constitution and informing South Africans of their constitutional rights, as well as helping them to claim them.

Ntlokwana, who studied law at the university of the Western Cape, was admitted as an attorney in 2006, the same year she started working at the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) in Cape Town as a legal advisor and later as an attorney.

“I’ve been working for NGOs that do not charge for legal representation,” says Ntlokwana. “That’s why I chose to be a human rights activist; I wanted to assist the poor.”

She may have started off as a feminist fighting for women’s rights but her interests have grown. Her master’s thesis focuses on the intersection between customary law and human rights, how some aspects of customary law violate human rights and the way a balance can be achieved between the two.

“It’s important because in South Africa a lot of communities still practise customary law and believe in it,” she says.

“Now we have a Constitution and we need to find a balance that accommodates both. The approach is that we should try to develop customary law to bring it in line with the current Constitution.” — Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: Marcos, Cape Town

Max Pichulik

Social Venture Capitalist: Heart

“We are delusional to think government and non-profits alone are going to solve our social and environmental fractures in South Africa,” says Max Pichulik, with trademark candour.

Having spent five years in asset management in some of London’s top financial houses, Pichulik returned to South Africa in 2006 and joined Heart – a unique business model that seeks to invest in and enable start-up social enterprises.

“The idea of social entrepreneurship is to use sustainable business models to change the planet,” he says.

Whereas Heart Social Investments provides the capital by investing in individuals with financially sustainable ideas that can change the planet, Heart is a non-profit organisation that nurtures these social entrepreneurs for three years.

The group was influential in persuading Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to introduce social entrepreneurship as the fifth key pillar in the province’s economic strategy – and it intends to replicate its funds, social innovation hubs and incubator throughout Africa. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Sidewalk Café, Vredehoek, Cape Town

Wendy Pekeur

General Secretary: Sikhula Sonke

Wendy Pekeur, the youngest female general secretary of a trade union in South Africa’s history, believes she is who she is today because of her grandparents.

“I am a symbol of their courage,” she says simply. Pekeur lived with them on Elsenburg state farm in the Western Cape for the first few years of her life as her own parents were not able to take care of her.

At the age of seven, though, her parents took her to live with them in Kraaifontein, an area she describes as a violent, crime-ridden disadvantaged community, but the young Pekeur escaped to her grandparents on the farm as often as she could. “Their home was a safe place for many,” she says. “They did so much for the community — what I’m doing is following in their footsteps.”

After matriculating in 1996 Pekeur went to work on Timberlea fruit farm in Stellenbosch, where she found that, because she was a seasonal worker, she could not join the workers’ union. So, in 2002, she joined Sikhula Sonke (“We grow together”) — then a women-only organisation that educated women and farm workers about their rights and that later became a trade union with a broad coverage of civil rights.

Pekeur believes passionately in the power of young people and to this end she and the organisation have been involved in closing shebeens on farms, encouraging young people to get an education and creating awareness around issues of HIV/Aids and foetal alcohol syndrome.

Now she has applied for a fellowship from an organisation in Johannesburg and plans to study law at Stellenbosch university so that she can do much more to help the organisation and its members.

In addition to her trade union work she writes poetry and music, and has written songs for Sikhula Sonke’s farm workers’ choir, which has recently released a CD, and has another in the works. Pekeur is planning her own CD as a tribute to her grandmother, who died last year, and she is also writing a book about her grandparents, called In Their Footprints . She still lives on the state farm. — Tarryn Harbour

Lunch spot: Cubaña, Green Point, Cape Town

Zak Mbhele

Programme officer: multi-agency Grants Initiative

Zak Mbhele oversees the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues at the Multi-Agency Grants Initiative (Magi).

A Dutch international development donor organisation, Magi – which, locally, is a collaborative venture between the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, Atlantic Philanthropies, uthando and the Ford Foundation – deals mainly with grassroots and community development.

As Mbhele says, he looks forward every morning to “the feeling of satisfaction in knowing that the work I am doing in some small way contributes to development efforts in communities.”

“It’s all usually rights-based community work, gender rights, gay and lesbian rights, farm worker rights,” he says, and he’s involved in it all, but takes the lead in LGBT issues.

But there is a lot of work to be done, which is evident in the number of hate crimes in townships. — “That’s always a cause to pause and say there’s still a long way to go if people are still prone to these kinds of attacks.” — Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: Primi Piatti, Rosebank, Johannesburg

Ross McCreath

Founder: Tiger Titans

From Bathurst to Buckingham Palace. That’s the trajectory 16-year-old Ross McCreath has been on since 2007, when he decided to share his cricket kit and coaching know-how with bored kids in Bathurst’s Nolukhanyo township during school holidays.

“I thought: ‘It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do’,” McCreath says, “so I took my cricket stuff down to the commonage and tried to show the kids how to play.”

McCreath, who is in Grade 11 at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, created the Tiger Titans, a squad of 30 boys who now play against private schools in nearby Grahamstown and Port Alfred.

He has played against the Titans on three occasions, and has been bowled out for a duck twice. “For what few resources these kids have got, they are so good. If they had access to facilities like St Andrew’s’, they’d be Eastern Province players in no time,” he says.

The Titans have a full-time coach, Duzi Mkalipi, but still play on the bumpy, cow-pat-encrusted commonage. “What we need is support — real support, not a couple of pairs of gloves — from Cricket South Africa and from corporates,” McCreath says.

His work with the Titans has contributed to his participation in the President’s Award (known internationally as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award) and has made him something of a celebrity. He was seated four places away from the Duke, Prince Philip, at a gala dinner at Lord’s Cricket Ground in March this year, and was invited to Buckingham Palace the following day for tea, his visit coinciding with that of President Zuma.

McCreath wants to go into politics and help the Department of Sports and Recreation to uplift impoverished areas through sports development.

“I like seeing things change”. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: The Pig & Whistle, Bathurst, Eastern Cape

Thokozile Budaza

Gender activist

Thokozile Budaza uses her courage as a rape survivor to empower women and children in need. But she doesn’t describe herself as a victim or a survivor.

The 25-year-old youth, gender and HIV/Aids activist calls herself a victor. Budaza has dedicated her life to changing and improving the lives of women and children in South Africa.

During her studies she signed up as a HIV/Aids peer educator and a member of the Men as Partners Network. She became involved in actively battling gender-based violence and HIV/Aids in 2003 while studying towards her BSc degree at the university of the Western Cape.

Currently, Budaza works for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, serves on the board of Sonke Gender Justice and is a consultant to EngenderHealth on the implementation of the Men as Partners Network. She also works with groups such as the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Civicus and Action Aid.

Her courage and dedication to the cause have not gone unnoticed: Budaza received a White Ribbon Award from the
Women Demand Dignity lobbying group in Cape Town.– Yolandi Groenewald

Lunch spot: Ocean Basket, Vincent, East London

Yoliswa Dwane

Co-founder and Head
of Policy, Communications and Research: Equal Education

One in 12 students from Yoliswa Dwane’s class at the Richard Vara High School in King William’s Town passed matric.

For a time, when she was in grade 8, learners had to squat in a neighbouring primary school, two or three classes crammed into one room. When a new school was built, the library contained no books and the laboratory no equipment. And when she was in grade 11, striking students broke all the windows.

Ten years on, in 2008, Dwane graduated with a law degree from the university of Cape Town and co-founded Equal Education (EE), an activist grassroots movement working for quality and equality in South African education through a combination of research and activism.

Earlier this year EE mobilized 10 000 learners to march on Parliament demanding functional libraries in all schools.

“What’s happening in our schools is an extreme violation of human dignity. The struggle for equality in schools will take a lifetime,” says Dwane. — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Empire Café, Muizenberg, Cape Town

Nadia Sanger

Chief Researcher: Human Sciences Research Council

Nadia Sanger, chief researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council in Cape Town, will be off to the university of Maryland in September on a Fullbright scholarship.

Her post-doctoral studies will focus on black women filmmakers and what their films say about identities in South Africa. She sees this opportunity as a chance for transnational feminist collaboration.

Sanger holds an honours degree in psychology and a master’s and a doctorate in women and gender studies from the university of the Western Cape. Her research mainly concerns gender and sexuality.

As a vegetarian she is also interested in “the relationship between humans and other animals”. I’m particularly interested in the instrumental use of other animals for human interests – how we use animals for food, for medical experimentation and for clothing, like leather and fur.”

Another concern is the way gender and sexuality issues are represented in the media and other institutions, as this has an impact on the kind of choices people make.

And as a feminist in South Africa, Sanger would “like to see feminism become a discourse that’s more mainstreamed in government, in the media and in other major institutions that people interact with on a daily basis”. — Vuvu Vena

Lunch spot: Maharajah Vegetarian Restaurant, Rondebosch, Cape Town

Marlise Richter

Visiting Researcher: Forced Migration Studies Programme,
Wits University

Marlise Richter’s research interests raise eyebrows among some of her friends: her PhD focuses on migrancy and sex worker access to healthcare in Hillbrow. She has written more than 40 articles for local and international publications on gender, HIV/ Aids, healthcare and human rights.

Richter, who also sits on the board of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), says sex workers’ rights are back on the agenda ahead of the Fifa World Cup, with sex work advocates seeking a moratorium on sex work-related arrests during the month-long fiesta.

“Sex workers fear that they will be rounded up and detained for the duration of the event,” Richter says.

Despite lobbying government extensively, prodecriminalisation groups have made little headway.

“I wish I could say we have had some success, but we haven’t,” she says. ” The law reform process has taken 10 years, and there’s no end in sight.” — Lionel Faull

Lunch spot: Baps Shayona, Mayfair, Johannesburg

Dorah Tlhoele and Matshidiso Mokwape

Co-founders: Tsogang Bosele

Dorah Tlhoele (27) and Matshidiso Mokwape (30) are the youngest members of a group of five in Soweto’s Diepkloof community who are using education about good nutrition to help heal the ill.

The Tsogang Bosele food gardening project, founded by Nomode Modise, who has worked for most of her life towards bettering the community, works largely with the sick and the elderly. It was registered as a cooperative in December 2009 and, since its start-up in January this year, has already taught 18 people who are chronically ill how to grow organic food. It has also set up two food gardens that act as models to help inspire the surrounding community.

Tlhoele and Mokwape have been involved in the project from its inception and work daily in their garden at the Diepkloof Quaker Community Centre, planting seedlings and watering the produce. On Thursdays workshops are held to teach anyone who is interested how to make a success of a simple veggie patch. —Lisa Steyn

Lunch spot:Quaker Community Centre organic food garden, Soweto, Johannesburg