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Loyiso Nkohla — a life of activism cut short by a hail of bullets

Loyiso Nkohla — a life of activism cut short by a hail of bullets
Poo throwers and Ses’khona Right’s Movement Leaders Loyiso Nkohla (left) and Andile Lili address supporters after a brief appearance in Bellville Regional Court in Cape Town. (Photo: Lindile Mbontsi)

Nkohla came into the national spotlight in 2013 when he and former ANC councillor Andile Lili led a group of people who dumped faeces on the steps of the Western Cape legislature to protest against Khayelitsha residents’ inadequate sanitation.

Activist Loyiso Nkohla was gunned down in Philippi, Cape Town, on Monday morning while attending a community meeting. Three others including a former ANC councillor were wounded in the shooting.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Shock and sadness after former ‘poo fighter’ Loyiso Nkohla gunned down in Philippi 

Nkohla’s wife, Nyameka, told Daily Maverick her late husband saved her life the morning he died.  

“He saved my life because we were going to the same meeting together but something [happened] in him… He just said, ‘Turn back, please listen to me today’.” She agreed to remain behind, and 30 minutes later her husband died in a hail of bullets.  

“He was my everything,” said Nyameka. “We did everything together. He was my yin to the yang. He loved his children and not a single day he missed picking them up from school or bathing them in the morning. He would leave important meetings just to pick up the kids from school.”  

Loyiso Nkohla’s rise 

Nkohla came into the national spotlight in 2013 when he and former ANC councillor Andile Lili led a group of people who dumped faeces on the steps of the Western Cape legislature to protest against Khayelitsha residents’ inadequate sanitation. The “poo protests” resulted in Nkohla facing charges for violation of the Civil Aviation Act, after he and a few others were caught on camera dumping human waste at Cape Town International Airport. 

What many do not know is that Nkohla was the son of the late Chief Justice Mabandla (“Aaah! Jongilizwe!”) from the Mabandla royal family, who live near Nqanqarhu (formerly Maclear) in the Eastern Cape.

Nkohla cut his teeth in politics in 2004 while living in Nyanga, Cape Town. He worked as a waiter and showed great interest in activism. He joined the ANC Youth League and the then branch secretary Khaya Yozi asked him to take over the role. 

“One thing about comrade Loyiso, he dedicated all his time to the organisation,” said Yozi. “We did not have time for girlfriends. Our time was spent on the organisation, youth development and studies.”  

Nkohla was elected to the Regional Executive Committee, which was later disbanded by then ANCYL leader Julius Malema after Malema accused it of unconstitutionally co-opting members.

He organised service delivery protests and gained popularity among ANC members and communities at large. He became an ANC councillor in the City of Cape Town after the 2011 local government elections.   

Nkohla was expelled from the ANC in 2014 after he and Lili led marches against the City of Cape Town’s use of portable toilets in informal settlements and dumped faeces at the entrance to the Western Cape Provincial Legislature and at Cape Town International Airport.

Loyiso Nkohla

Loyiso Nkohla empties the contents of a porta-loo tank on the steps of the provincial legislature on Monday. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN)

The ANC suspended Lili, who joined Nkohla in forming the Ses’khona People’s Movement which organised legal and illegal protests against poor service delivery in the city. 

Loyiso Nkohla

Loyiso Nkohla (stooping) and Sanco chairperson Songezo Mvandaba led a group of protestors from Khayelitsha informal settlements who emptied the contents of porta-loos on the steps of the provincial legislature yesterday.(Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN)

The pair were later reinstated, but Nkohla left the ANC in 2016 for the Democratic Alliance and took 500 Ses’khona members with him. A few weeks after leaving the party he landed a lucrative job in the City of Cape Town. This created an uproar as Nkohla was not qualified for the post but it was termed a political deployment by the City of Cape Town. 

After leaving the DA he joined the Land Party in 2019 and was the party’s candidate for premier in the Western Cape. He quit the party after the elections and joined the Patriotic Alliance just in time for the 2021 local government elections. 

After failing to win any of the five seats he contested, he announced that he was quitting politics to go back to activism full-time. At the time of his death, he was an advocate for Langa and Philippi railway occupiers, who are yet to be relocated, in mediations with Prasa.

Prasa spokesperson Zinobulali Mihi sent condolences to the Nkohla family.

“Mr Nkohla was an ally of Prasa and a strong advocate for the reopening of the Central Line. His voice on community issues will be missed.”

The ANC said Nkohla was a dedicated and resolute advocate for community upliftment with a strong focus on social justice for the marginalised community of Philippi 

“At the time of his tragic passing, true to form, he was involved in community facilitation aimed at addressing concerns of unpaid workers by service providers.

“We call upon… law enforcement agencies to do all that is necessary for justice to prevail. We urge anyone with information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators to contact law enforcement agencies.”

Nkohla will be buried at KwaNohute Great Place in Krwakrwa village, in the Eastern Cape. DM


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