An Un/Just Transition: climate crisis and the future of Cape Town

What is a Just Transition? What does it entail? What does this mean for conditions in my community? More importantly, what is it not?

For the homeless and residents of informal settlements in Cape Town, winter is a dreaded season. Flooding and fires displace communities and make the need for shelter and other humanitarian assistance a priority for the municipality. This is the reality every year and local authorities have resorted to preparing for disaster by allocating resources for relief interventions. Artisanal fishers have shared observations about how the patterns of the ocean are shifting and no longer conform to traditional knowledge of the seas. 

Tshisimani in partnership with UWC’s Chair for Citizenship and Democracy are co-creating a space for the coming together of community activists, students, academics, environmental justice organisations and workers to collectively challenge their understanding of the concept of Unjust Transition.

This participatory workshop aims to provoke our notions of a transition in the context of a deepening climate crisis. 

Featured speakers include: Moniebah Isaacs, Dinga Sikwebu, Patrick Bond, Greg Ruiters, Zelda Holtzman, Ken Salo and Karl Cloete

Date: 21 July 2023
Time: 9:30-15:30
Location: Senate Building, UWC Belleville Campus

Please RSVP to as spaces are limited.


Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education and UWC EMS Faculty announce the co-creation of a Citizens Commons


23 June 2023 

The Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education (Tshisimani) and the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) have formed a Citizens Commons to facilitate linkages between students, academics, workers, activists, and communities.

The Citizens Commons, under the aegis of the UWC Chair for Citizenship and Democracy, is part of an emerging niche area for contemporary political thought around citizenship and democracy where academics, workers and students may co-create new ideas and share experiences with grassroots communities and activists.  

Today (23 June 2023), Tshisimani Executive Director Zelda Holtzman and UWC’s Acting Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jose Frantz, signed a formal agreement between the two institutions. 

The Citizens Commons will initiate regular quarterly public events such as popular education workshops, public talks, cultural events, debates, panel discussions and collective work on annual conferences, as well as written and video outputs, including scholarly books, articles, popular handbooks, booklets, and documentary films.

UWC’s rich legacy as an activist university was firmly established during the height of apartheid colonialism, with students, workers and academics oriented towards the fight for liberation

 The descriptor of an ‘activist’ university references the involvement of UWC students and academics who were oriented towards the struggle to end apartheid and to fight for equality and liberation in tandem with anti-apartheid activists across the country. 

Tshisimani, on the other hand, was established in 2015 as an activist education centre orientated towards supporting working-class social justice movements, organisations and community groups with relevant, contemporary, and catalytic education intended to advance social justice activism towards alternatives to structural and endemic racial capitalism. The centre specialises in popular education curriculum development, creative arts methodology and the creations of curriculum and materials with reach across the country and continent. 

The crises of capitalism, race and gender-based violence, rising global inequality, the climate crisis and increasing risks of multiple health pandemics put increasing pressure on the global political south. This political moment, locally and globally, calls for the intentionality of combining resources with the common purpose of social-justice oriented social movements and actors to change the trajectory of neoliberalism, the bane of social, environmental, and ecological justice. 

Tshisimani works collaboratively with partners to co-create programmes, curricula and in facilitating education programmes for social justice movements – drawing from a rich Freirean, worker’s education and arts activist history. Programmes are designed to promote critical thinking and to advance tools of analyses among activists. Building ‘new’ theories and knowledge of change are intended to ignite the imagination of alternatives to the current political landscape where such alternatives are aligned to the creation of a more just and equal society.  

“This cooperation marks a new phase for Tshisimani as it widens its focus nationally and regionally, working with partners on the continent and transnationally in the political south, connecting struggles in communities to the works of progressive academics and organic intellectuals.” said Zelda Holtzman, Executive Director for Tshisimani. 

The UWC Chair for Citizenship and Democracy, Professor Gregory Ruiters welcomes this partnership which “will facilitate opportunities for Tshisimani and the EMS faculty, and UWC in general to engage in new forms of knowledge creation. Methodologically the commons seeks to advance a new form of solidaristic knowledge creation by incorporating the idea of multiple mappings of democracy and diverse spaces and times of citizenship.”

As an exercise in “argumentative democracy and citizenship”, the citizen commons draws on Appadurai’s (2006) thesis that the “right to research” is a precondition of active citizenship. We will explore how we can contribute to the work of non-academic collaborators (community groups, activist networks) to reclaim and deepen democracy; how do we collectively reimagine research aimed at answering and investigating questions that our non-academic collaborators want answered?

For more information about Tshisimani visit us at Office 1:01, Ground Floor, EMS Building on UWC Main Campus, Bellville or

Follow, like and engage with Tshisimani on

Email us on or call us on 021 685 3516/8

For Media Inquiries please contact Mo Abdulla on +27 82 908 3828

Board Staff

Boaventura Monjane

Boaventura Monjane holds a Ph.D. in Postcolonialisms and Global Citizenship (Sociology), from the CES/Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra. He is based at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS, UWC) as a postdoctoral researcher and is also a fellow of the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter-Strategies of the Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung. In addition, he is an associate fellow at the Centre for African Studies (CEA, UEM).

Boaventura’s areas of interest and research include agrarian movements, rural politics, food sovereignty, and climate change. He has been involved in agrarian social movements, both locally and internationally, working with the National Farmers Union of Mozambique (UNAC) and the International Secretariat of La Via Campesina. He was also involved in the production of professional film documentaries (Land of Plenty, Land but of a Few and TIERRA EN SUSPENSO: Amenazas y resistencias en Cabo Delgado) on the topics of his interest.

Board Staff

Koni Benson

Koni Benson is an historian, organizer, and educator. She is a senior lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Her research focuses on mobilisation, demobilisation, and remobilisation of struggle histories in southern Africa’s past and present.  She draws on critical and creative approaches to people’s history projects, popular education, and feminist collaborative research praxis in her work to coproduce life histories of self-organisation and unfolding political struggles for public services/the commons with social movement archives and with student, activist, and cultural collectives in southern Africa. She co-convener of Revolutionary Papers, a transnational research and teaching project working with anti-colonial movement materials and Know Your Continent, a popular education African history initiative. Previously she spent eight years working with social movements and trade unions as a research educator at the International Labour Research and Information Group, and as a researcher organizer for the Blue Planet Project supporting campaigns against the privatization of water on the African continent.  

She is author of Crossroads: I Live Where I Like (illustrated by the Trantraal Brothers and Ashley Marais, forward by Robin D. G. Kelley, PM Press, 2021/Jacana Press 2022), and coauthor with Faeza Meyer of Writing Out Loud: Interventions in the History of a Land Occupation (forthcoming). With Asher Gamedze and Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, she co-produced “Radical Histories II: Ottilie Abrahams Speaks,” Owela (Kaleni Kolletive, 2019).  With Feminist Alternatives, she co-produced My Dream is to Be Bold: Our Work to End Patriarchy (Pambazuka/ Michigan State UP, 2010). Her writing has been published by the Journal of Southern African Studies, African Studies Review, Feminist Africa, Gender Place and Culture: Feminist Geography, Transition Magazine, Education as Change, Agenda, South African Labour Bulletin, Zambezia, Khanya College Journal, Pathways to Free Education, ILRIG, Zmagazine, and newspapers in South Africa, Canada, Kenya, and Namibia.

Events Vacancies

Call for Applications: What is Democracy? 2023

A short course for community-based paralegals


South Africa has the highest inequality in the world. Despite nearly three decades of democratic rule, landlessness, exploitation, poverty, racism, violence, corruption and a collapse of basic services have a stark presence in everyday life. Today there is a shared sentiment that although 1994 did bring about some significant changes, the society we live in is a far cry from one that different generations of activists dreamed of and fought to establish. There is growing dissatisfaction with and distrust in politics as a tool for change, with politics increasingly associated with the ‘big men’, patronage, self-enrichment, upward social mobility for the few. With 2024 elections around the corner and the rise of regressive forces that target the marginalised, many are confused about what the future may bring. Different explanations are offered for why these realities persist. Different responses or ‘ways out’ are also presented. What is Democracy is a course about South Africa today – why it is the way it is, why this matters and crucially, what we can do to overturn this dismal situation.

Following the success of our 2022 programme, this short course returns for a second exciting year. Designed specifically for community-based paralegals and fieldworkers who provide a range of services to the communities they serve – including information access, support with gender-based violence cases and matters; assistance with evictions; labour; consumer and social security matters as well as different kinds of dispute resolution – this course will locate the historical roots of the day-to-day issues that advice offices contend with and contextualise them within broader contestations, resistance and imaginations about democracy.

Woven through the course are these questions

1. What do the realities that community-based paralegals deal with on an ongoing basis reveal about the texture of South Africa’s democracy?

2. How can we explain the persistent and growing inequalities and injustices that dominate South Africa today, nearly 30 years into democratic rule?

3. What are some of the big struggles waged in South Africa today? What do they teach us about democracy, resistance and imagination?

4. What does a democracy for the many, not a few, look like? What can we learn – from the past and today – about attempts to craft expansive and radical notions of democracy?

Participants in the course will consider these questions, locate them historically and look at their theoretical underpinnings.


This course will complement the knowledge and experience acquired by community-based paralegals in their practice with conceptual tools designed to better understand why the South Africa we live in today, is a nightmare for so many and what can be done to change this. Between the two residential modules participants will engage in online contact, tasks and support.

A range of creative techniques – interactive games, role plays and scenario exercises, seminars, film screenings, fireside chats, reading circles, guest lectures, activist panels, discussion groups and debates – will be used in delivering the course. The course is residential and has two modules, each running over five days. Between the two residential modules participants will engage in online contact, tasks and support.

Who can apply:

Participants must be engaged in community paralegal work and provide legal assistance and dispute resolution services to communities on a range of issues. In selecting the participants, Tshisimani will consider geographic spread, gender, age and period of service to the community. We will make every effort to draw participants from different age groups and with different levels of experience, aiming for a diverse mixture in the learning space.

Participants are expected to commit to attending the entire duration of the course, which runs over two blocks: the advice office or place of work needs to approve leave for the applicant to attend these two residential modules.

Orientation and registration: 8 May 2023

Module 1: Mon 8 May – Fri 12 May 2023 (held in Western Cape)

Module 2: October 2023 (location TBC)

A final assessment task will be completed in September 2023. An expression of support from your community advice office or organisation is mandatory.

Tuition fees, data to support course work, travel and accommodation will be covered by Tshisimani. Space is limited to 25 participants. 

Course summary:

Module 1: Why Democracy? Then and Now

8 May – 12 May 2023

This module is about the realities that confront activists in South Africa today – inequality, racism, uneven patterns of land ownership, spatial segregation and endemic violence. The aim of the module is to ask questions about the persistence of these realities after the installation of a democratic government in 1994 – a government ushered in with the promise of “a better life for all”. In answering these questions, we will deal with the history of poverty and inequality; and how race, class and gender oppression worked together and configured the economy and society we live in today. We will use different lenses to grapple with a history which has been profoundly shaped by colonial conquest and dispossession, slavery, violence, indentured and migrant labour, enforced 

segregation and the creation of a system of production relying upon cheap black labour. Although tracing back inequality, poverty, land deprivation, spatial segregation and violence; the module will also look at political and policy choices that post-1994 governments chose and continue to take. By the end of this module, participants would have grappled with:

1. What were the key demands of ordinary people in the struggle against apartheid?

2. What do these realities reveal about how our society functions, who rules South Africa today, different group interests and the nature of the post-1994 state?

3. In what ways are the everyday issues that community-based paralegals deal with linked to unfolding struggles for dignity and democracy. 

Module 2: Remaking democracy? Alternatives and strategies

October 2023

Activists today share a growing consensus that there is a big rift between people’s daily realities and the promise of a better life for all. While the broad consensus is evident across different organising spaces in South Africa, the same cannot be said about how to organise politically to challenge the social and economic crisis of our time. For this module, participants will examine some of emerging responses to the social and economic crisis besieging SA today, including a growing disillusionment with politics as a vehicle for change; greater appeal of authoritarian politics and the yearning for “strongmen” as well as a defense of the Constitution at all costs. We will look at how these responses point us to larger questions of what is meant by “alternatives” as well as what a democratic, egalitarian society would look like. This module hopes to foreground questions about strategy and tactics for radical social transformation and hone-in on real world cases and attempts to craft expansive notions of democracy that give ordinary people power over the political and economic forces that govern their lives. We will reconnect with and draw inspiration from ideas of democracy, located in our past and from the struggles being waged by activists in South Africa and the across the world today. Of particular interest are experiments from militant union traditions, women’s organising, shack dwellers’ movements, community organising as well as traditions that approach the law as a terrain of struggle.

By the end of this module, participants should be able to:

1. critically assess the different responses to the ongoing crisis in their respective communities and in SA more broadly,

2. map the social formations and struggles in their different communities and identify, starting with their own experience, the layers in society today that are invested in and most capable of ushering in a radically different SA,

3. locate the role of their practice in unfolding struggles to change the nature of South African society today.

To apply, please submit the following 

  1. Submit a short bio by filling in this Google form
  2. Email a letter of support from your advice office or organisation stating that they support your application for this course and will grant you leave to attend the two modules. Send the email to ensuring your name and the organisation you work for/with is included in the letter.
  3. Whatsapp your short video/voice note task (see below) to 066 220 0089.

Instructions for short video or voice note task (3 minutes):

Record and send a 3-minute video or voice note stating the following:

  • Your name and where you come from.
  • The name of the advice office/organisation where you are located.
  • Tell us a story about a case that you dealt with in the last 5 years. 
  • What is the one thing you learnt from this case?

Your video or voice note should not be longer than 3 minutes

Video and voice note tips. Ensure that you record in a quiet place with no noise interruptions. Clean your camera before recording on video. Use the questions only as a guide. Do not repeat the questions on the video or voice note as this will take more time. Send your video or voice note along with your name and contact details to this WhatsApp number 066 220 0089.

The deadline for applications is Tuesday, 25 April 2023. Late applications will not be considered. If we have not contacted you by Tuesday 2nd May, then please consider your application unsuccessful

For more information contact:

Call: 021 685 3516
Twitter: @Tshisimani
Facebook: @tshisimaniCAE


Call for Applications: Understanding the law for social change – a course for activists

This short course is designed to equip activists with basic information and skills regarding the law in order to aid them in their struggles for social change, equality and freedom.

In a Constitutional Democracy such as South Africa, activists confront the law on a near daily basis. From court judgements targeting the homeless in the Cape Town; to the GBV cases unacknowledged or backlogged; to knowing your rights regarding protests, social grants and services – the law is a key player in the activist space.

Yet knowledge of the law is often intimidating, inaccessible and seen to be “reserved” for professionals and the highly educated. Despite this we know there are comrades in movements who have become fluent in aspects of the law and court proceedings through years of first-hand experience. 

What will the programme cover?

In this three-day programme, Tshisimani together with the Black Sash and other partners, aims to introduce comrades to how the law may assist activists in their work. This practical exploration will cover topics such as laws governing protest, policing, evictions, grants and social security, gender-based violence and first-hand skills training on how to take statements, write affidavits and how the court system works.

For a full breakdown of the programme, have a look at the full concept note and course overview here

f you are an active part of a movement or grassroots social justice organisation based in or around Cape Town, please apply by filling out the form below.

All costs are covered but participation will be based on a selection process that ensures a diversity of activists who will take this work forward.

How to apply

Please fill out the Google Form below to apply. Applications close on Wednesday 15 March 2023, and successful applicants will be contacted by 18 March.

Date 23-26 March

Location: Froggy Pond Resort, Simonstown

Queries:; 021 6853516


Effective Political Campaigning: an activist workshop

Political campaigns are the bread and butter of activism. Through them we plan, mobilise, organise and hopefully win gains towards social change. Following the success of the first workshop of our #BeyondProtest series, we dive into political campaigning and tactics. During the liberation struggle activists held regular underground political workshops on the models, tactics and strategies of effective, long-term campaigns. They were fluent in the language, roles and structure of campaigning. 

In this one day workshop Tshisimani will go back to basics in a contemporary way: what are political campaigns? What is the role of strategy and tactics? How do we make decisions about the effective pathways to success? What tactics are available to us and when do we employ them? What can we learn from the legacy of our own historic campaigns such as the UDF and those across the globe? 

Join us on Saturday 4 March, 10:00 to 15:00, as we further equip ourselves to take on the increasingly dire crisis facing the working-class and marginalised.

Location: Ashley Kriel Hall, Community House, 41 Salt River Road, Salt River, Cape Town

Numbers are limited. Please RSVP to or phone 021 685 3516 by Wednesday 1 March.


Activism beyond the picket line: an activist’s workshop

Public demonstration, the historic tradition of speaking truth to power, remains the main tool in the hands of the oppressed and excluded. While public protest and marches still demonstrate mass power and unity of the marginalized, there is growing despondency about the effectiveness of this strategy. In the midst of deepening poverty, widening inequality and general failure of the state, can we afford to not interrogate our current methods of protesting? What lessons can be drawn from our activist history compared with the current dynamics of the culture of protesting? Are there new innovative ways we should be adopting in making our stand and achieving our goals? How do we sustain the momentum and mass vigilance once we have marched and the memorandum of demands has been handed over?

Tshisimani will be hosting a workshop for activists to critically engage on these questions by reflecting on personal experiences as well as lessons from movements in South Africa and beyond.

Date: Saturday 4 February 2023
Time: 10:00 – 13:30
Black Sash offices, 2 Caledonian Street, Mowbray, Cape Town (next door to Fat Cactus restaurant off Durban Road – within walking distance from Mowbray bus, taxi rank and train station)

This workshop will be an in-person offering with no online option.
Numbers are limited. Please RSVP to or phone 021 685 3516 by Thursday 2 February