Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Ekuhurleni Activists – Why am I an Activist, April 2016

Ekhuruleni Monitors Respond to the Question: Why am I and Activist

April 2016


Gugu Precious Nkabinde

I Gugu Precious Nkabinde was born at Nquthu hospital at Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) on the 26 March 1992 on Thursday.  I am a first born of the late Thembekile Nkosi, who died on the 22 January 2005 due to heart failure. I started my education at Zamani Primary School from1998-2004. I then proceeded to Phulong Senior Secondary School from 2005-2009 the year I completed my matric (pass)

I am staying at 3 Nzama Street at Kwa-Thema, Springs, 1575 in the Far East rand of Johannesburg at Gauteng province. I am staying with my mother’s siblings my aunt, uncles and my lovely siblings. Kwa-Thema is a location with different sections. The youth of Kwa-Thema is facing a difficult challenge of unemployment and due to high population of unemployment in our community leads to crime. Some young people end up smoking drugs, whoonga and nyaope because they don’t have much to do so smoking keeps them going or strong.

I remember one day when I met Sandile Nombeni at the funeral of Gogo Mshibe, a family friend.  Sandile told me that he is currently busy with a local organization. That is when he invited me to come to the workshop that they will be hosting at Holiness church at Majola Street.  I then got interested and told my friends about the organization as well as the workshop. The day of the workshop came and we went there, me, Vuyelwa and Ayanda.  At the day of the workshop we also met some members of the organization; they welcomed us with warm heart and love.

Later on the day of the workshop we met Bobby Marie who was facilitating the workshop.  He was from Bench marks foundation (BMF). He was telling us about free writing which I knew nothing about.  After the workshop “sadla iKFC” and got R30 for transport.  I told myself ukuthi kumnandi here, we eat KFC and receive local transport fee. Then they told us to come and join them on their meeting that will be held at Khuzwayo Street on Tuesday. We went there to attend the meeting, and that is how I joined or became a member of the organization.

At first I didn’t know or understand what is the reason or purpose for me to join the organization.  As time goes on I went to understand ukuthi iyini kahle neOrganization (what is the organization about?).

The Ekurhuleni Environmental Organization also known as E.E.O. is a community based organization that educates and organizes communities on environmental and social issues.  The E.E.O focuses on problems that community faces such as housing, climate change, women empowerment, abandon mines and other social issues.

Being a member or volunteer of E.E.O has opened my eyes to many things that I have ignored or not cared about such as mine issues. I never knew that they are illegal miners and that they are called Zama-Zamas.  I have once seen them in action at Mpumalanga province at a coal mine.  What hurts me most was to see women and children in the mine working.  I have learned a lot through my journey of EEO and I am still learning more other things.  I also went to places that I have never pictured myself visiting, like Cape town and sleeping at different hotels not for fun but for learning.

I love and enjoy being with EEO and working with such wonderful l people.  I hope that one day the community or even better the whole world would recognize us for our good work.  May the good Lord bless us women of EEO to write a book on our personal experiences!




Sandile Nombeni

My Life in Activism

Due to the poverty, unemployment crime and other socio- economic and political challenges, the community I lived under influenced my life to be one amongst the many who have joined activism for world change.  My name is Sandile Nombeni I was born in Kwa-Thema from a teenage couple who separated after giving birth. This was one of the major effects which led me to join activism at a very young age where my parents usually fought when they had to go attend my school meetings at primary level.

In my secondary school level I was a very naughty student whilst shy at home as these two different environments challenged me differently. This caused me to grow up having a low esteem in productive spaces which had also caused me to later quit from work without having a valid reason to do so. I was employed at Atlas COPCO from the year 2007 till 2008. In 2009 I then saw the difficulty of being part of a large family living in a small house with grandparents, father, aunts, uncles and their children. I then joined KWATSADUZA movement.  And because of my participation I was elected to be part of the leadership fighting for RDP houses where I gained and grown his knowledge and strength of activism.

In 2010 I then met with Meshack Mbangula who was an old activist for environmental issues in the community and he introduced me to a different but interesting field of work such as the mining impacts in communities and how mining influences the social lives of community members. Later I was involved in the community monitoring program where I learned how to identify, analyze, and peacefully solve community challenges.

Looking at the lost political history of my community’s  contribution to South African history, my aims are to revive the spirit of unity and participation in community decision making which has died mostly in the youngsters today.

One of the reasons which has kept me going in the struggle is the lives of all those who had died fighting for the” freedom against apartheid that we are still longing for after 20 years of democracy” with the hope that communities would stand up for their right to participate and decide in all international spaces.


Thabo Mochbeng Mogafe


I am Thabo Mochbeng Mogafe born 29 May 1984 at the Kwa-Thema clinic.

Life in Kwa-Thema, Gauteng east now known as the city of Ekurhuleni has been very interesting when I look at its political history, its community, its elders and youth and the education structure. In Kwa Thema we have always been faced with serious issues like crime, unemployment, poor service delivery and environmental issues like abandoned mines, air and water pollution to name a few.

In the 90’s we were faced with serious political violence which left more than 100 students dead when PAC(PASO) and ANC(COSAS) students clashed, but it has since been resolved.

When it comes to environment issues abandoned mines are a real problem as they were used as crime spots and were also a danger to the community as people fell in these shafts those who were lucky survived but some were unlucky. We live in an area surrounded by industrial firms and mines. These industrial firms pollute our air and some of them release their contaminated water into local spruits that flow into our rivers.Community members use this water for drinking, washing and doing laundry.

In the township of Kwa-Thema where I’ve lived all my life is also faced with a problem of unemployment especially the youth. These are the same people that turn to drugs and alcohol abuse to release their frustrations, some even resort to crime to feed this drug and alcohol problem and also turn to crime to be able to feed their families.

These are some of the reasons why I’m an activist and that’s why I joined E.E.O as these issues are really disturbing and I want to make a difference. I want to see change in the community I live in.  I want to live in an environment where the people especially the youth are recognized and offer them employment or be given skills to be able to start their own businesses.  We want to live in a safe and clean environment. Being an activist taught me a lot as to how we can deal with issues like these. I want to share with my community the information and knowledge I have gained. This way we we can all become one to make our community a better place.

In future I would like to see more of our youth involved in community programs, sports and even social and cultural programs. We want our government to recognize us in terms of skills development and create more employment for the youth especially those who are sitting at home with college and university qualifications. I want to see our youth being given the privilege of free basic education and FET training. I want to see people getting clean and fresh water. We want the companies that pollute our water and air to take responsibility.  I want to see us living in land where we can be free to practice our rights.

Mpho Mthembu

I joined activism when I became aware of the challenges that my community face. I became a member of SAPS ( South African Police Services)  under Social Crime Prevention Youth Desk where we dealt with the issues of substance abuse, youth in conflict with the law, prison tours, and school talks just to mention few. We engaged a lot with the community members to bring change. In one of the meetings I attended I met with a member of the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organization who told me more about the organisation and invited me to attend one of their meeting and that is how I joined.  It was easy for me to engage with the community and the issues that affects the community on environment. The issues that the community of Ekurhuleni faces are the issues of tailing dam soil, abandon mines shaft which attracts young and old people to go to these mine shafts and dig for gold to support their families.  As a result, this creates gang battles amongst the Zama-Zama’s and now we see the woman are slowly joining the Zama-Zama’s. Those gang battle they affect the community because they run for cover straight into the community and then end up affecting the innocent.

Another issue that affects the community is the issue of tailings dam soil that is being sold at the street and it affect the woman the most because they are the one who buy it and the children having different kinds of reason some they crave for it, and some eat it just for the fun of it. The result of eating this soil can be stomach cancer, giving birth to deformed babies and not have a child at all. All these woman have no idea of the long term consequences of eating this soil cakes. So one of our aim is to educate young and old woman about the dangers of these issues that we face as the community and working with different organizations to bring a change in our society.

My vision is to see a change in our community and for the people to live in a clean, better and healthy environment and our community to be capacitated with relevant information.



Ayanda Baloyi

I am a twenty-four years old young female, born and grew up at Kwa- Thema in the section called White City.  At home we are a family consisting of four members, my parents and sibling. I am motivated by success. I do not want to see people suffering from poverty and want to see their living conditions improving.

Kwa-Thema is situated in the east of Ekurhuleni in Springs.  Kwa-Thema is a Township that was established in 1959. It has a population of about + 99 517. There is a high rate of unemployment. Most of the people are living in RDP houses. And there are still people living in shacks. The majority of the community members depend on a government social grant in order to survive or earn a living.

Our Township is faced with crime such as house robbery, selling of dagga, Nyaope, stealing and selling of wallets in the street of kwa-Thema.

In terms of environmental issues, the community face the challenges of houses which has many years existing and cheap material were used when building the house. Due to heavy rains and wind they break down or fall apart, some get flooded and those who have gardens in their back yard the rain destroys everything eventually hunger takes place.

The issue of dumping is still a problem. In most cases it happened when the collector of the waste did not pitch. Due to strikes, holidays and sometimes weather conditions.  The dustbin gets full, that also result to failure of services delivery then people find an open space and dump the rubbish.

I was invited by a friend to a meeting of the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation. I then became interested and decided to join because it is making a huge difference in the community of Kwa-Thema and Ekurhuleni. They do this by identifying problems that communities come across, doing  digital mapping of  problematic areas within Ekurhuleni, write articles, producing  newsletters with the assistance of Bench Marks Foundation and to distribute it to the people living around Kwa-Thema.   Having access to information of what is occurring around the community is best.

Before I joined the Organisation I used to be ignorant, I had no idea about the place that I am living in that there are mine shafts, slime dam soil that contains uranium and is a danger to the people. The organization opened my eyes to stay aware, become involved in monitoring problems and and engaged in community activities.

There are skills that I obtained through the organization. My writing skills has improved; I was able to work as team. I became involved in organizing and research. I learnt how to conduct interviews, internet research and talking to experts specializing in that particular field. My vision is to see the organization growing internationally, raise funds and have resources to reach the whole country.


Steven Nkabinde

My name is Steven Nkabinde born on the 30th March 1973 at Pollack Park Hospital in Springs, East of Gauteng also known as Ekurhuleni. I live in a family off 15 in a 4 roomed house and we are all unemployed.  It is a serious problem as I sleep in the kitchen floor and I’m faced with a problem where I have to be the first one to wake up and last one to sleep.

At first we used to struggle as we had no electricity and we used coal stoves and it was bad because we inhaled the smoke and it is bad for our health and those around us especially children in the house. Water was also a problem as we had no running water and we had to fetch water from nearby streams and these streams are contaminated as companies and nearby chemical factories drain their dirty water in the streams and we use this water for drinking, washing and bathing.

What influenced me to join E.E.O and become an activist is that looking at my background and how I lived and what I’ve been through, I would not like to see other people going through that path. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.


Sabatini Motloung


Tell me, I will forget, show me, I might forget. Teach me and I will remember.


I am a 26 year old woman who was born and bred in Kwa Thema, a community that is in the Far East rand of Johannesburg. I am also a member of Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation, an organisation that seeks to be the voice of communities, that advocate for transparency and consultation from corporations.   EEO is a gender just organisation that primarily focusses on everything that happens around them hence the word “environment”


I am driven by passion, passion to see political and social change in South Africa. Former president Thabo Mbeki once said “when we won our freedom we based our constitution on the vision contained in the Freedom Charter.” The freedom charter is declared a political custodian and vanguard for democratic revolution; today, there is growing anger and lack of satisfaction amongst the majority who have been left behind in South Africa’s new democracy.


The government should stop invoking the Freedom Charter because there has been a rise in societal inequality. The people’s representatives have become the new elite which are governing; all national groups have equal rights but some are more equal than others. I do not believe that South African revolutionary heroes fought for the kind of governance that we are living under.


Who would have thought that, at this day and age, we would be having anti-racism dialogues, that one family could have a grip on the state’s resources? We see university students  protesting for issues that can be resolved over cooperation and dedication from stake holders.


They told us that education is the key to success but we see protests, violence and white supremacy; post graduates are unemployed, young people become involved in substance abuse and teenage pregnancy because most community are lacking recreation centres.


I am imagining how would it be if we were to have Minister of Youth in our cabinet; I believe that young people’s issues will be well advocated for instead of incorporated everywhere. After all, young people are the pioneers of this country and a serious intervention on activism would see the vision of “freedom” come into realisation.


I will continue to be an activist because my course is to see political and social change where Black is not poor, White is not wealthy and where business is not Indian.


I define myself as an activist because I seek to create positive change and to be the change I want to see. “Oh my body, make of me always the one who always question!” France Fanon. It is time for South Africans to take charge once again and chart a new way forward.


Mandla Jwili

I was born and raised in Kwa-Thema in Ekurhuleni region formely known as East Rand.  Kwa-Thema has its own historical background; it was established in 1952 when black Africans were resettled from Payneville because it was considered by apartheid regime to be close to white town.

In the mid-ninenties I was employed in two retail companies namely Nedbank and Clicks stores, and that’s where I was introduced to customer service working with clients on a daily basis.  My environmental influence came about my working expierience with different cultural groups, where I saw a need to help communities who are not aware what dangers lies ahead in their daily lives.  When a prospective client takes a life cover policy for one’s security or one’s spouse or children, in this case the member beneficiaries are protected; working in the environmental sector is synonymous to taking a life cover.

My reason for joining Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation in 2012 was to be part of community struggle, I was hoping to turn possibilities into reality by meeting the existing challenges and unifying communities struggles head on.  By doing so I hope to explore the obstacles to unify and identify practical measures to build unity especially between communities and government.  A keen leader “leadership should not be about positions or gains; it should be about making a difference to the lives of people”.  Being a public servant is a privilege not a right; if we feel entitled we will lose the reason why we are here in the first place.

My position at EEO office is Treasurer of the organisation, and as an office bearer I also take part in the environmental activities.  We hold workshops to the communities such as mining dialogues, food sovereignty campaigns, and air and water pollution awareness.  We also form part of solidarity activities with other non-profit organisations who share the same vision as ours by organising pickets and marches to challenge and engaging municipalities in community struggles.

In conclusion, my future plan for communities as EEO member is to see all those who are in power or authorities being able to engage activists and communities in decision making, that will yield positive results not imposing their implementation take for example E-tolls systems in Gauteng province, ”united we stand divided we fall”.


Vuyelwa Cindi

I am Vuyelwa Cindi daughter of the late Joyce Cindi and Bonisile Skhwebu. I was born 6 July 1992 at Far East Hospital.  I’m a 23 years old single mother of two beautiful daughters. I’m very loud, I speak my mind and not afraid to tell the truth.

In the year 2000-2001 I lost both my parents and going through that very young changed my life drastically. I was then raised by my grand mother and uncle, growing up without parents was not easy and it is still not easy. I did my high school at Phulong Senior Secondary School. The first years were good but I did things that I’m not proud of but I guess we all make mistakes. The best thing that came out of high school was getting a friend sister.

I grew up in Extension 8 Langaville and having to adjust from moving into that place was difficult. It is a place where you can see the struggles and people are not afraid to live their own lives despite of what they have and what they don’t have. I don’t know the history of the place but from what I have heard people struggled to get that place and make it what it is today.

Early 2014 February Sandile came to my friends’ house and told us about a meeting that was going to be held at Majola Street at Holiness Church. I went there to attend the meeting and it was a very fruitful meeting even though the chairperson was very intimidating. They welcomed us with warm hands. From there on I joined and became a member.

Being a member of E.E.O has opened my eyes in a very huge way and has made me aware of the things that I have been turning a blind eye on things that are happening in my community.

I have met different people and went to different places I never imagined I could go to. I went to Mpumalanga to attend a WAMUA workshop on women and mining.  In that workshop I met different kinds of women and they all had different stories to tell about their community.One girl spoke about her community and the problems that they had and you can hear in her voice the passion she had and how determined she was about changing her community for the better. Her story touched me in a way I could never imagine, it also made me see that if she could do it then what’s stopping me from changing and making my community a better place to leave in?  So   from that day I knew that I was in the right place and my heart also knew that.

I didn’t become an activist just for fun, I became an activist because I want to bring change in the environment and be the voice of the voiceless, create awareness on issues that communities are not aware of or turning a blind eye on.


Zamuxolo Magona

My name is Zamuxolo Magona born 25 October 1967 at Pollack Park Hospital in Springs east of Gauteng now known as Ekurhuleni.  I joined E.E.O. in 2013. What encouraged me to join is after seeing our children being hooked on drugs, alcohol and being involved in crime. It is where I saw the potential of the organization that is capable of changing our poor living in my community.  After I joined E.E.O. I learned a lot and how the environment we live in is a disaster.

At E.E.O we share our knowledge with other organisations  which lead us to be able to march and picket to the councilors and government. The organisations we worked with are The Benchmarks Foundation, Oxfam, Right to Know, Action Aid, Project 90 By 203 & MACUA and we have also had workshops with them.

As a E.E.O member I would like that our government and councilors work hand in hand with communities because government and councilors don’t want to work with communities e.g. communities are not engaged in mining operations when they are about to take place and people find themselves in situations that they are being evicted from their land without consultation from the government and our local councilors. It really hurts when communities are moved from their land where they have lived their whole life  and not benefit from mining activities.


Zethu Diko

My name is Zethu Diko I stay in Kwa Thema EXT 7 Springs Ekurhuleni East of Gauteng.  I’m 24 years of age engaged to Bongani Collin Mogapi.  I’m a mother of two kids a boy Thandolwethu Kamogelo Mogapi and a daughter Oluhle Koketso Mogapi.  I’m a second born at home and I’m blessed that I have a family of my own.  I attended Eureka high school and passed my matric in 2011.  In 2012 I took a gap year and in 2013 I volunteered at Kwa-Thema SAPS (social crime prevention) whereby we help young stars to quit or stay away from away from criminal activities. I was the organiser for the unit.

I spent 2014 at home while looking for employment and I was unsuccessful.  I confided to a close friend of mine Mpho about not being successful in finding employment that is when she referred me to E.E.O as she just recently joined, and she advised that she will talk to Meshack the chairperson of E.E.O, he did and he accept as he needs people like us to make a difference. After the first march I attended, it caught my attention, I saw that helping communities is their first priority and it made me realize that I have a duty to fulfill in the community I live in. I have not much experience but I would love to see good service delivery, government and local councilors working together with the community, capitalists must stop taking people for granted because they are not working and they are uneducated.