South Africa is a multicultural country rich in history and resources and now, after the long struggle to end apartheid, with a progressive constitution. Though considerable progress has been made since independence in 1994, after years of apartheid, the country still faces significant challenges such as inequality, poverty, unemployment, crime, drug abuse, xenophobia, corruption, intolerance, environmental decay and gender based violence among others.
Giraffe Heroes South Africa (GHSA) finds and documents stories of brave South Africans of all races, age, sex and gender already acting to combat these challenges for the good of the country and beyond. .These "Giraffe Heroes" include refugees and immigrants who contribute towards sustainable peace and development in South Africa. All Giraffe Heroes are compassionate risk takers and most of them are largely unknown.
By telling the stories of these Giraffe Heroes, GHSA inspires many others to strive for change.
GHSA speeches, trainings and other tools in civil engagement will help activists succeed. And GHSA’s school curriculum can help young people build lives as courageous and compassionate citizens.
Though completely independent, Giraffe Heroes South Africa is inspired by the Giraffe Heroes Project in the USA and its affiliates in Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, India, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Singapore and Argentina.
Giraffe Heroes South Africa, like all other Giraffe Heroes programs around the world, does not take sides with any one political party or racial, religious or ethnic group. Rather it finds and celebrates the work of those citizens whose lives rise above party, ethnicity, gender, sex, race, and class lines - people whose work is dedicated to the betterment of the lives of all those who live in the country without discrimination.
GHSA serves everyone and is a powerful means for harnessing the problem-solving ideals and efforts of every citizen.
Giraffe Heroes are chosen by a jury of citizens from nominations received from all over the country. The main criteria for being a Giraffe Hero is ability to courageously stand and take action that serves a common good and brings hope.
WE URGE YOU TO VISIT THE GHSA Facebook page.
A Welcome by the Director
It is with great pleasure to welcome you all to the official page of the Giraffe Heroes South Africa.
Let us work towards creating the South Arica that we all want, taking into account what Tata Nelson Mandela, a great revolutionary and liberator of our time taught us,’ What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived, but what difference we have made to the lives of others.’
The mission of GHSA is to find and tell the stories of people who ‘stick their necks’ out to make South Africa a better place to live and to give them tools to succeed. When we publish these stories over traditional and social media other citizens are inspired to take action too. This story telling strategy is simple- but it has worked in every culture for thousands of years and it works here too.
Most of the Giraffe Heroes GHSA honors are social, economic, democratic and environmental rights activists, standing against crime, violence, poverty, hatred, marginalization, injustice and inequality. All are doing something positive for the community. You can read their stories below.
We have just started. There are many more Giraffe Heroes in South Africa, working courageously to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. Now their stories need to be told to the nation and the world at large so that they can inspire all of us to renew our hope and to step forward to help meet the severe challenges faced by humanity.
GHSA finds and documents these silent heroes who have contributed so much and who can inspire present and future generations through their work.
We are open for nominations and would be happy to receive them. Do you know of a South African citizen or a refugee who is sticking her or his neck out to serve this beautiful country and all those who live in it? Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for details on how to submit your nomination.
We look forward to celebrating that hero, confident that his or her courage will inspire others to stick their necks out too, like a giraffe.
Danmore Chuma is a radical educationist, journalist and an award winning Giraffe Hero frontline human rights defender. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Breaking News and Updates
South African Woman Honored by International Women's Media Foundation
When elderly villagers of Ezingqolweni, South Africa were brutally attacked and killed by unknown serial killers during a spate of violent killings that claimed the lives of 11 people, Nomabelu Maliwa had no idea that she would become the Messiah and Saviour of her people during the six months killing spree. This did not come without costs. She used her little resources to offer a refuge to neighbours targeted by the killers, protecting them in her home at the expense of her own security and that of her family at a time when others shut their doors for fear of retribution. Go to full story here.
This story was produced in partnership with the International Women’s Media Foundation and written by Zodidi Mhlana, Marcia Zali, and Danmore Chuma.
Giraffe Hero Rethabile Mosese Leaves Strong Legacy
Rethabile Mosese has stepped down as Deputy Director of Women Against Abuse, one of South Africa's strongest voices for the protection of women and women's rights.. The following excerpts are from a letter she sent to Giraffe Heroes South Director Danmore Chuma:
"I write to express my profound gratitude for the transformative work of Lawyers Against Abuse (LvA) in empowering victims of gender-based violence (GBV) in Diepsloot, a community I have called home for the past eight years...To date, LvA has provided critical legal and psychosocial support to over 2,300 GBV victims and their families...
I am particularly grateful for the coverage of LvA's work by Giraffe Heroes. As a woman living in South Africa, I am acutely aware of the pervasive threat of GBV, a constant fear that shapes daily lives, influencing choices and limiting freedom. This personal experience underscores the importance of LvA's work in challenging societal norms that perpetuate GBV and promoting gender equality.
As I step down from my role at LvA, I carry with me the profound satisfaction of having contributed to an organization that has made a tangible difference in the lives of countless individuals... Together, we can create a South Africa where women and girls live free from fear and violence.
Sincerely, Rethabile Mosese
Deputy Director. Lawyers against Abuse (LvA)
Giraffe Heroes of South Africa
Welcome Witbooi, a former gang boss turned human rights defender, manages campaigns to divert young people from gangsterism, crime, and drugs in the Cape Flats and Johannesburg, South Africa. His work has not been easy: Witbooi renounced his gang membership, which has bloody consequences in the world of gangsterism. Often at risk of revenge attacks from gang leaders, Witbooi vows to continue his work, saying “There is no going back.” More
Angela Witbooi is a human rights activist who initiates development programs and supports victims of human rights violations in the west coast of South Africa. In 2016 Witbooi and her colleagues formed the West Coast Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum in order to promote food security and togetherness. She has endured numerous threats as a result of her activism but soldiers on. More
Mzwakhe Mzamo Vilane is a young activist who advocates for sexual reproductive health and comprehensive sexuality education among high-school students in Atteridgeville, a poor neighbourhood southwest of Pretoria, South Africa. Vilane uses his own resources to help under-resourced families and he has challenged the local clinic about its discriminatory practices. Some key public officials are not happy with his advocacy. More
Margaret Ghogha Molomo, a human rights and environmental activist, coordinates the work of the Kopano Formation Committee, a pressure group in Mokopane, Limpopo Province. Her organisation fights climate change, environmental decay, the dearth of culture and heritage, and gender injustice caused by greedy mining companies, politicians, and leaders in government. Molomo continually faces threats from powerful individuals who are against her work. More
Candice Chirwa, an academic, author, and gender activist, confronts the destigmatisation of menstruation in South Africa. In 2018, Chirwa formed Qrate, a nonprofit organisation promoting the dignity of women and girls by providing menstrual heath and sexual health education. She often faces resistance to her work from conservative elements within society, and she has sacrificed resources, time, and effort. More
Youth activist Saba Zahara (Honeybush) organizes events in community halls, libraries, museums, studios, and schools in order to expose injustice against the poor, women, children, indigenous communities and the environment—at the same time warning young people against violence, substance abuse, and xenophobia. As she navigates this terrain, she finds herself stepping on the feet of very powerful forces, but she refuses to be silenced. (More)
Thamsaqa Hamilton Hukwe has committed his life to the struggle for the transformation of the landless, the homeless, the poor, and the working class by fearlessly challenging extractive policies of the regime in Pretoria. Hukwe organises and mobilises workers, students, and citizens to challenge policies that cause suffering. He has faced several assassination attempts and has been threatened, arrested, and tortured. More
Isaiha Mongombe Mombilo
Isaiha Mongombe Mombilo, a Congolese immigrant, stands for the rights of vulnerable members of his community through information dissemination, advocacy, and social support in South Africa. In 2012 he founded the Congolese Civil Society, an organisation that aims to facilitate the integration of Congolese immigrants into their host communities in South Africa. More
Peter Monethe challenges oppressive labour practices, and engages in community struggles for land and decent housing in South Africa. He organises protests, community gardens, festivals of the oppressed, soup kitchens, political education classes, environmental health campaigns and social audits on water and sanitation. At one point Monethe was shot at by an unknown gunman, an incident he suspects was linked to his activism. More
Mabhelandile Twani is a grassroots activist who, for over two decades, has committed to fighting injustice and failed political leadership in South Africa.His work has not been easy. Twani's family has faced several threats from those against his work. Twani has also survived six assassination attempts for standing against injustice and corrupt officials. More
Naomi Betana, a gender-justice activist, fights patriarchy, injustice, and austerity through organising, petitioning, and managing empowerment initiatives in Witzenberg, South Africa. As a single mother, Betana sacrifices her time and energy to contribute to the welfare of others. She’s determined to continue her efforts because she believes that it is human to stand for the oppressed. More
Serge Ndnyegamiya, a refugee labour rights activist from Burundi, fights for the rights of refugees and immigrant workers. A victim of xenophobic violence himself, Ndnyegamiya challenges farm and company bosses for unfair labour practices as well as the police and labour officials for discrimination.. Ndnyegamiya’s work is often threatened, and he is continually exposed to risk. More
Vanessa Nelson, a community volunteer and activist, fights gender-based violence by raising awareness and offering support strategies, advocacy, and empowerment programmes in the Cape Flats area of South Africa. A rape survivor herself, Nelson formed Hope for the Future to give support to survivors of gender-based violence and to give hope to community members in distressed conditions. She has lost income and been threatened by criminals—and keeps going. More
Sinegugu Zukulu fights environmental crimes by big mining and construction companies through litigating, documenting, and raising awareness. As Programmes Manager for Sustaining the Wild Coast, he works to amplify the voice of indigenous communities in Eastern Mpondoland and to protect that environment from destruction. Zukulu narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by supporters of the mining companies he opposed. More
Imraahn Mukaddam, an entrepreneur, consumer activist, and whistleblower, uses advocacy and litigation to fight dishonest and greedy corporations, despite financial risks and threats. Mukaddam believes in business for collective good and not for individual profit. His challenging of corporations has come at a cost. He lost his first job, and his business suffered a heavy blow. He's also been stalked by those who do not appreciate his activism.. More
Adeebah Sha takes on challenges in her community such as hunger, drugs, gangsterism, gender-based violence, diseases, and poverty. She does this by raising awareness, organizing protests, and facilitating empowerment programmes. After Adeebah’s mother died of cancer, she and her colleagues formed the nonprofit Moms Who Care. Adeebah’s work is self-funded, and her activities in drug- and gang-infested communities are risky; shootings are common. More
Abie Isaacs began his activism in the fight against apartheid. Today he's a leader in the fight against gangsterism, drug trafficking, and hijacking in the Cape Flats, a community rocked by violence. His aim is to nurture a generation of progressive young people. His work is dangerous but Isaacs is determined. More
Olerilwe Peter Moshosho, a local human rights defender, challenges the persecution of foreign nationals in South Africa. In 2021, at the height of xenophobic attacks, Moshosho helped form “Africa Simunye”, a social movement that helps foreign nationals who have been illegally evicted, received ill treatment or prevented from accessing basic social services. Despite facing threats from anti-immigrant groups, Moshosho soldiers on . More
When Kimberly Mutandiro, a Zimbabwean immigrant and journalist, arrived in South Africa in 2008, she realised that the voices of refugees and immigrants were mostly silenced by the mainline media. Since then, she has written dozens of articles exposing discriminatory practices by government officials against immigrants and xenophobic violence by local anti-immigrant groups. For that, she has endured hate and threats from extremist groups. More
South African Phoebe Faith Mahlokwane, a young pastor, fights drug abuse among young people in Elandskraal, Limpopo Province. Through her nonprofit company, she carries out anti-drug campaigns and rehabilitation of drug addicts.. The programme, which is largely self-funded, faces threats from drug lords, who demand that Mahlokwane quit her anti-drug campaigns and rehabilitation activities. More
AsnathTeffo began feeding and sheltering abandoned children at her own house in 2001, using her own retirement savings to then set up Dimphonyana Tsa Lapeng, a community organization which provides care and services to orphaned children, children from abusive households, and destitute women within the community of Olievenhoutbosch. Her financial challenges are significant but she soldiers on. More
Mujahid George, a singer and actor, uses entertainment and social media to spread hope, love, and prayers for vulnerable members of his community. Through partnerships with nonprofit organisations and others, George supports orphans, the sick, the elderly, and flood victims. He risks short-changing his family commitments—and he gets threats from some fellow Muslims who think he should focus his charity on his co-religionists. More
Ian Erasmus was working at Sasol, a South African petrochemical corporation, when he saw a leaking valve releasing vanadium—a hazardous heavy metal waste— that was ending up in the Vaal River, affecting millions of South Africans. When Sasol ignored the problem, Erasmus reported the company to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fishery and testified before the South African Human Rights Commission. For this, he's been bullied, harassed, and threatened. More
Zimbabwean human rights activist Ishmael Kauzani was subjected to violence and harassment so many times, he fled to South Africa where he formed a nonprofit to fight poverty. He manages nutrition gardens, environmental campaigns, reproductive health education, support for girls and young women, and educational initiatives. Despite all his contributions, Kauzani is often told to go back to Zimbabwe; there’s a lot of suspicion of immigrants in South Africa... More
Athenkosi Fani knew he was gay from childhood, and so did others: He was mercilessly assaulted as a child and still is now, as an adult. Rather than hiding his identity, Fani is an activist for LGBTQI communities, creating the Boniswa LGBTQI Foundation and launching the LGBTQIRISE campaign to champion LGBTQI people. Despite continued physical, political, and emotional harassment, he gives motivational talks, trains youth on leadership and sensitivity, and organises LGBTQI sports tournaments and awareness campaigns. . More
Stacey Fru, a young children's rights activist, fights child labour and illiteracy in South Africa and beyond. Through writing and public speaking, she has reached out to young people as well as adults across Africa on how to stay positive and safe in a world characterised by child labour and child trafficking. In 2016, and at only nine years old, Fru formed the Stacey Fru Foundation, an organisation that promotes education, safety, and security in South Africa and beyond. More
Liliane Mukidi empowers women through training, capacity building, care, and support in Cape Town’s more disadvantaged areas. In 2003, she founded Umoja, a nonprofit organisation that helps integrate immigrants, provide skills for women, and alleviate poverty. When the COVID-19 virus broke out, Mukidi began raising awareness and distributing masks. Both Mukidi and her husband contracted COVID-19. Both survived. More
South African teenager Yola Mgogwana mobilises young people to fight for environmental justice in Khayelitsha, a settlement 30 km southeast of Cape Town. Because of her work, Mgogwana has little time to play with friends or even to learn in school. Faced with these challenges as well as the constant threat of cyberbullying, Mgogwana nonetheless vows to continue spreading awareness—“until the government does the right thing”. More
Attorney Kirsten Youens, an environmental and animal rights advocate, fights the harmful coastal oil, gas, and coal-mining activities of corporates in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere. In 2014, she formed All Rise, a nonprofit law clinic that promotes the dignity of people and preservation of the environment through litigation, advocacy, and training. She has been threatened and even seen allies killed. More
Roegchanda Pascoe fights crime and gangsterism in Manenburg, a community rocked by poverty and violence about 20 km southeast of Cape Town. She helped found the Manenberg Safety Forum, an organisation that seeks to combat gender-based violence and gangsterism. Pascoe soldiers on, despite risks to the safety of herself and her family and lack of funding. More
Francina Nkosi is a frontline human rights defender and a champion of gender justice and environmental rights in Lephalale, a mining community in South Africa's Limpopo province. Challenging powerful mining firms, some of them linked to top politicians, Nkosi puts her life in danger. But Nkosi soldiers on, believing that she is on earth for a purpose—to save humanity. More
General Alfred Mzondeki Moyo started his struggle for human rights in South Africa with the fight against apartheid and his activism has never stopped. Today, as Covid-19 spreads, Moyo challenges the government to address the accompanying poverty, hunger, and starvation in working class communities, For his efforts, Moyo has suffered a series of assassination attempts. More
Aubrey Robinson is a community activist in Cafda Village, a community rocked by poverty and violence, 21 kilometers southwest of Cape Town. In his efforts to fight gangsterism, youth unemployment, early pregnancy, and violence, Robinson formed the Cape Town Youth Cadet. In addition, he offers free consultancy services to members of his community from an office in his own backyard..More
Brown Lekekela, a community volunteer and human rights defender, fights for gender justice and children's rights in Diesploot, 21 km north of Johannesburg. In 2013 he opened the Green Door Shelter to give a place of safety, counselling and referral to victims of gender based violence. Male perpetrators of violence against women are threatened by his work but Lekekela braves the risks. More
Rethabile Mosese, a human rights attorney, fights for gender justice by providing free legal services to victims of gender-based violence in Diepsloot, an informal settlement north of Johannesburg. In 2015, Mosese joined the nonprofit organisation, Lawyers against Abuse (LvA), giving up working in a highly paying corporate world in order to serve her fellow women in a remote community ravaged by crime, with limited basic services. More
Thabiso Zulu, an anti-corruption campaigner and whistle blower, is passionate about serving the poor and the vulnerable. Zulu has exposed massive corruption, the looting of municipality resources, poor service delivery, police brutality, and politically motivated killings of activists by politicians in KwaZulu Natal. As a result, Zulu has been arrested, tortured, had those close to him killed, More
Nkosikhona Swartbooi is a fearless campaigner for justice and equality in South Africa. An experienced activist and strategist, he's campaigned for safe and decent housing for all, protested unlawful evictions, exposed corruption in South Africa’s rail agency, and raised awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic. He's been arrested, threatened, and attacked; today he lives in a safe house away from his family. More
Cheryl Hlabane empowers women to realise their full potential and to be treated as equals in a society rocked by gender-based violence. A former businesswoman who forsook the corporate life for one of women’s advocacy, Hlabane manages the Frida Hartley Shelter, taking in women and their children who have endured neglect, abuse, trauma, and homelessness. Hlabane has had her reputation tarnished and her life threatened. More
When COVID 19 hit South Africa, Mondeka Mabibini put herself in the frontlines, raising awareness and providing food and protective clothing to those in need. . She's launched other projects, including a reading club and an organization to supply shoes to poor students walking miles to school without them. ‘I have a passion for community work,’ says Mabibini, ‘especially with regards to children and youth.' More
Veteran freelance investigative journalist Raymond Joseph has published over 50 articles as part of an ongoing anti-corruption investigation unearthing massive graft by the South African Lotteries Commission (NLC) . Besides the financial and time constraints, Joseph has been threatened, defamed, and is facing lawsuits, as well as being harassed and threatened in Parliament. More
When COVID-19 broke out in South Africa, Ebrahim Abrahams, a teacher in Kewtown, started using the money he’d saved to buy a car for his daughter as a graduation present to feed the poor and hungry. For him and the family members and community volunteers who help him, that means spending long evenings in dangerous neighborhoods and exposing themselves to the virus as well. . More
Axolile Notywala devotes his life to fighting injustice and inequality in South Africa. As General Secretary of the Social Justice Coalition, he stages protests, coordinates with other organizations, and challenges the government in advocating for accountability, inclusivity, and better living conditions for people in underprivileged communities. He has been arrested and assaulted by police many times. More
Songezo Mazizi has continually fought for justice, particularly students’ rights. As a student at the University of the Western Cape, he led the Fees Must Fall campaign, which .successfully advocated for more government funding of schools and students. As a result of his activism, Mazizi was suspended from university, arrested and beaten by police. He continues to be a force for justice. More
Oswald Kucherera, an activist in South Africa, fights for justice half a world away. In his quest for a just world, he leads the Free West Papua Solidarity Campaign, the only such project in Africa, raising awareness of the West Papuan genocide and the demand of the people there for freedom and independence from Indonesia. He continues on despite financial challenges and threats. More
Abdikadir Khalif Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia to South Africa, has defied threats and financial constraints to serve his community and his new home. Through the Somali Association of South Africa in the Western Cape province, an organization which he leads, Mohamed promotes social cohesion, integration, and a culture of self-reliance among immigrants, refugees, and local South Africans. More
Georgia McTaggart, of Cape Town, founded Help Up to protect the environment and create economic opportunities for the poor. Through Help Up, McTaggart organizes clean ups in and around Cape Town, removing unwanted plastic waste that pollutes the environment. McTaggart and her team face risks of falls on slippery river banks and of contracting water-borne illnesses. More
Melita Ngcobo fights against local South African governments that are essentially destroying poor neighborhoods in what is called “reblocking.” In some cases, already poor people, without notice, see their homes—often shacks—demolished and are forced to live in thoroughly unsafe areas. For her efforts, Ngcobo has been attacked, wounded, and jailed. . More
Christopher Koitsioe, a former Staff Sargeant and evangelist, fearlessly stands against the forced evictions and mistreatment of residents of Marievale by the South African Defense Force to pave way for a military base. He's been arrested and his house firebombed. In spite of threats, Koitsioe soldiers on. More
Merlin Ekwanza Mosoko uses sports to build social cohesion in the Cape Flats, a region in northern Cape Town rocked by violence, division and teen pregnancies. He starts basketball teams targeting young people to keep them away from drugs and gang violence, to teach life skills and to keep kids in school—promoting a better future. More
Starting at age 15, Rushda Booley sacrifices her personal savings and time to inspire and mobilize young people to giving back to the community. As Director of Charity Week, she leads a group of volunteers in raising funding to support humanitarian efforts and emergencies in South Africa and the world. More
Michel Hatungimana is a kind man—and a warrior. He has helped over 150 refugees from his native Burundi with food, and accommodation. He risks his safety to rescue hijacked Burundian commercial drivers. Recently he’s taken on the dangerous role of peacemaker during the upsurge in violence against immigrants in South Africa. More
Neliswa Dludla, a trained Maths teacher, turned down a formal teaching job, opting instead to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of young learners in her poor community to prepare them for a successful career and to keep them out of drugs and crime. She faces risks, including from criminals and gangs. More
Qaba Mbola, a social justice activist and an Ashoka Fellow, sticks his neck out to lead efforts towards poverty alleviation, social cohesion, combating crime and drug abuse in South Africa, especially through his Ujamaa community project in Khayelitsha, an informal settlement South East of Cape Town. More