From Crisis to Activism: Palestine and the Awakening of South African Consciousness

In the face of relentless oppression, a powerful surge of solidarity emerges. From South Africa’s core, activism resounds, signaling an awakening. Week on week, communities organise, fueled by a common cause for Gaza. Artists defy with their creations, while our journalists see their peers risk everything for silenced voices. Youth, academics, and inter-faith alliances stand firm, demanding justice and accountability. Economic boycotts reverberate, challenging capitalism’s complicity in genocide and imperialism.

In this symphony of solidarity, South Africa’s political consciousness ignites.

Event Brief

Since October 2023, South Africa has witnessed a radical awakening of activism and organizing across various sectors in response to the ongoing crisis in Palestine. From artists forming collectives and engaging in radical art, to journalists swept by the martyrdom of their Palestinian counterparts; from youth organising for justice to academics and students advocating for the boycott of Israel: our communities demonstrate a (re)elevation of political consciousness South Africa has not witnessed for very long. This event brings together representatives from different sectors, including academia, journalism, arts and culture, youth, labour and inter-faith communities, to reflect on and celebrate the impact of this solidarity movement on their work. Join us as we harness this energy to reflect, sing, critique, celebrate and drive towards further solidarity. Towards Palestinian – and through it our collective – liberation.

Programme Overview

9:30Tea and Registration 
10:00-10:05Welcome and introduction of Citizen Commons partnershipGreg Ruiters, UWC School of Governance
10:05-10:10Overview of day and introduction of part one of the event.

Introduction to the event and speakers representing different sectors (inter-faith, arts, youth, academia, community organising, indigenous, journalism, economic and labour) giving short 5min introductions of how their area has been impacted and seen shifts in organising since October.  This takes place in a plenary format at UWC’s Senate Hall with poetic interventions and song dispersed between speakers. 
Mohammed Abdulla, Wadi Dyani and Ruth Wilson Gilmore
10:10-10:15Input on inter-faith organisingJulia Hope, Thandi Gamedze and Iman Omar
10:15-10:20Input on youth organisingEqual Education
10:20-10:25Input on academic boycottLeigh Ann Naidoo & representatives of UWC PSC
10:25-10:30Poetry interludeIman Omar
10:30-10:35Input on labourAbeedah Adams, GIWUSA
10:35-10:40Input on artsDean Hutton
10:40- 10:45Input on journalismAtiyyah Khan
10:45-10:50Input on indigenous solidarityTaariq Jenkins
Tea Break
11:00-12:30Introduction to Part Two of the event.

Each sector then separates into break away groups for up to an hour and a half.  These break away groups are facilitated by representatives of those who have been actively organising and engaging in solidarity work since October and are intended to be spaces of reflection/education/mobilisation/sharing/discussion/planning. Out of this we hope that some form of feedback/reporting in the form of a poster/collage/timeline/mindmap/social media piece/written piece can be shared with the larger group. 
Guest speakers from different sectors; Tshisimani staff; UWC organising team and UWC PSC volunteers.
13:30 –14:30 Opening of arts and cultural space

After lunch a cultural space will open up with artists sharing music, spoken word and viewing of art pieces from Palestinian artist Ashraf curated by a representative of Creative Knowledge Resources 
Creative Knowledge Resources, Jazz artists, poets
14:30Vote of thanks, closing and invitation to future eventsSiviwe Mdoda


Vacancy: Curriculum Developer & Educator

Based at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, the TCAE seeks to appoint as soon as possible a:


This exciting full-time position includes five key areas, which are held together with other Tshisimani staff:

1) Educator role

  • Plan and teach courses offered by the Centre, using a range of teaching methodologies, including drawing on the experiences of formal and popular education traditions.
  • Facilitate discussions, seminars, programs related to partners of the centre.
  • Host internal seminars, sharing relevant research outcomes with Tshisimani staff to broaden the centre’s facilitation capabilities and capacities.
  • Design lesson plans for relevant sessions which include session, objectives, tasks and context.
  • Execute lesson plans to produce the intended educational outcomes.
  • Revisit lesson plans and redesign the lesson plan after evaluating the outcomes, where necessary.

2) Curriculum and materials development

  • Develop curricula and course material for courses offered by the Centre, as well as material for web-based dissemination, podcasts and weekly lectures, debates, discussions and documentary film screenings. 
  • Collaborate with activists in the development of materials relevant to their campaign and organisational growth and sustainability.
  • Research and develop course materials using a range of different media, and bringing in experts, when appropriate, to run sessions.

3) Project Management and Leadership

  • Working with the programme team as well as independently to co-ordinate activities run by the Centre – e.g. residential activist schools, film showings, weekly political discussions, lectures by visiting experts etc.
  • Project leadership includes the development of concept notes, proposals, and project reports. It also includes the completion of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), coordination of the programme team and leading of programme design, compilation of materials (e.g., readers) and sourcing of outside expertise. 
  • Holding and co-ordinating projects with Tshisimani cohorts, constituencies, and partners to whom Tshisimani offers educational offerings.
  • Ensuring effective communication with Tshisimani cohorts, constituencies, and partners, facilitating their involvement with Tshisimani staff in lesson planning, facilitation, organisation, and evaluation of educational activities
  • Oversee and work closely with the relevant staff regarding logistics and related administration to translate conceptualised events into actuality.

4) Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL)

  • Embed the formal MEL system of the centre in the design and execution of programs which includes but is not limited to: 
    • Recording and keeping track of meetings and communication between Tshisimani and Tshisimani partners 
    • Collate and collect materials, photographs and media related to facilitated educational programmes.
    • Collect feedback (WhatsApp, emails and testimonials) about workshops and educational offerings.
    • Write program reports and briefs about developments within a particular project highlighting the notable shifts and changes in a tshisimani partner for reporting purposes.

5) Project and Organisational Support                                          

  • Providing support to projects and programmes led by other Tshisimani staff members. This includes assistance with conceptualisation, lesson and activity design and facilitation, both for regular meetings and workshops and residential camps and courses. 
  • Assist with the development of relevant funding applications to support envisioned projects of the centre.
  • Contribute and participate in organisational processes including:
    • Mid-year reviews
    • Strategic planning
    • Staff and program meetings
    • Input on policy
    • Recruitment


Minimum qualifications: 

a relevant post-graduate degree or equivalent, relevant experience. Fluency in English and one additional African language.

Minimum experience:

At least 3 – 5 years’ experience in a similar role.  Experience of working in an activist organisation working for social justice, and part of an activist network which aligns with the overall aims of the Centre. Excellent communication and strong research skills. Track record in political education. Ability to work as part of a team as well as independently. Curious, imaginative, proactive and hardworking. Familiarity with Microsoft Office and basic computer literacy. Confident in ability to facilitate workshops of large, working-class, participants.

Strong advantages: 

Record of writing and being published in the spheres of activism, social justice or popular education. Ability to communicate complex ideas in interesting and simple ways. Experience with digital publishing platforms such as WordPress, Mailchimp; and social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Please email a CV that includes contact details of three (3) referees; and a letter of motivation, detailing how you meet the requirements for this post, and your interest and suitability to work at Tshisimani. Generic letters are strongly advised against.

Kindly send these two documents with ‘(Curriculum Developer & Educator)’ in the subject line to by 15 February 2024. If you have not been contacted within 3 weeks of the closing date, please consider your application unsuccessful. 

The TCAE is committed to equity in employment practices and is keen to make appointments to meet these objectives. Priority will thus be given to young black women and LGBTQIA+ applicants. The Centre reserves the right not to make an appointment. 


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.


Rethinking Democracy: “2024 is our 1994”?

A short course for community-based paralegals


South Africa boasts the highest inequality globally, despite almost three decades of democratic governance. Landlessness, exploitation, poverty, racism, violence, corruption, and service collapse persist. Politics faces mounting distrust, associated with elitism, patronage, and divisive agendas. Different explanations and answers to these challenges are presented. As the 2024 elections approach in South Africa and 64 other countries globally, political parties take centre stage: each representing different – or perhaps similar – explanations and answers to a countries challenges. Through delving into these challenges, explanations, and proposed paths to a better future, this course navigates South Africa’s past, present, and potential futures: exploring themes of African solidarity, critically assessing 1994’s significance, integrating global democratic perspectives, and scrutinizing elections’ role in participatory democracy.

After the successes of 2022 and 2023, this course returns for an exciting third year. Tailored for community-based paralegals and fieldworkers, it addresses a spectrum of community needs, from gender-based violence to labor disputes. By delving into historical roots and broader democratic frameworks, Rethinking Democracy equips participants with context and insights essential for navigating contemporary challenges in social justice. This year, the course is themed around the popular slogan “2024 is our 1994” – exploring, historicising, critiquing and debating what it represents for our 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.

Module Dates and Details

Module 1: Sunday 9 June – Friday 14 June (held in Western Cape)

Module 2: End of October (location TBC)

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

Sunday 9 June – Friday 14 June

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, with a contemporary look at the promises of the upcoming elections. 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

End of October 2024

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 0737099909.

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?
  • Why do you want to form part of this course?

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 0737099909.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 26 April 2023. Late applications will not be considered. If we have not contacted you by the 6th May, then please consider your application unsuccessful

For more information contact:
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.