Giving a voice to unheard communities, and the art of protesting peacefully and effectively
Sandile Soxokashe is not ashamed of taking part in the 2013 riots in Bekkersdal. It shaped him into who he is today — a man who cares deeply about his community.
In 2013, the Gauteng town of Bekkersdal went through 10 months of protests sparked by the lack of service delivery in the area. The protests turned to riots, government buildings were torched, people were hurt and valuable infrastructure was destroyed.
Sandile Soxokashe was a 15-year-old boy at the time and, desperate to help bring about change, he became actively involved in the protests. In hindsight, he sees it as a valuable lesson in his journey to becoming an activist, a steep learning curve teaching him how things shouldn’t be done.
Government buildings in Bekkersdal that were destroyed have been demolished and the land is disused and vacant. Residents now have to travel long distances to access government facilities.
Ten years later, Soxokashe has started an initiative called Be The Future Foundation, which educates the community about safe, legal and effective forms of protest. He is passionate about change, but he knows that it will not come about if communities make the same mistakes that were made in Bekkersdal.
Be The Future Foundation is working together with the NPO Right To Protest to produce comprehensive workshops that educate communities while also training their own volunteers to become mediators between the community and the government.
They have zero budget, but are so passionate that the three directors and 10 volunteers meet twice a week to produce the course that will lead them in their quest to give a new, more effective, louder and more peaceful voice to unheard communities.
In addition to the training workshops for protesting, not rioting, Be The Future Foundation is developing workshops for schools to teach children about their constitutional rights, so they can become more active citizens. They believe the lethargy that has befallen many people in South Africa is a direct result of not knowing how to make a change and of being unclear about what that change should be.
Soxokashe is not ashamed that he took part in the 2013 riots in Bekkersdal. It shaped him into who he is today. And who he is today is a man who cares deeply about his community and wants its members to have agency and a voice, and to push for effective and long-lasting change. DM
The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who engage in direct action. They are people anyone can turn to in difficult circumstances: a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles these people. Through a website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide ways for people to get involved.
Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]