Sell-Out’ or Necessary Compromise: an activist school on the 30th anniversary of the transition to democracy

The view that the settlement that ushered in democracy in 1994 was a ‘sell-out’, ‘betrayal’, an ‘elite pact’ or ‘terrible compromise’ has widespread appeal among activists today. The negotiated settlement – which was set in motion in February 1990 with the unbanning of liberation movements and the release of Nelson Mandela – is widely blamed for the appalling levels of poverty and inequality, stubborn unemployment, persisting racism, horrifying violence and skewed land ownership patterns. For many activists, the answer to the question: ‘what explains South Africa’s reality today?’ lies somewhere in what ensued during the period of the transition.

To provide a platform for young activists to reflect on how the negotiated settlement shaped today’s realities, Tshisimani is hosting an activist school in Johannesburg from 30 April – 4 May 2020.

The activist school will be an opportunity for activists to weigh up different explanations of how we got here, what can we learn from our histories about the dynamics and complexities of change and more importantly to explore some ideas about what we can do to go beyond the limits of the transition from apartheid to democracy.

The activist school programme will include activities like film screenings, seminars, inter-generational talks, book discussions and visits to historical sites.

How to apply:

The activist school is targeted at young activists between the ages of 18 and 29.
Participants will be selected through an open call process. Prospective participants are encouraged to apply through one of the following means: writing a motivation letter (200 words) or designing a poster or recording a video (2 minutes) addressing the following:

  • who I am and why I am interested in the topic of the winter school
  • what I think explains South Africa’s reality today
  • two things I would like to learn from the school

The deadline for applications is Monday 24th February 2020.

Submission details:
Motivation letters can be emailed to
Videos and posters should be sent via WhatsApp to 079 865 5542