Summary: Mabhelandile Twani is a grassroots activist who, for over two decades, has committed to fighting injustice and failed political leadership in South Africa. In 2020, Twani with a group of fellow activists formed the Intlungu YaseMatyotyombeni Movement, a pressure group advocating for equal access to land, proper service delivery, and housing in informal settlements. His organisation organises the unemployed, evicted people, the homeless, casual workers, squatters, and landless people in informal settlements, to stand for their rights by challenging injustice. His work has not been easy. In addition to spending most of his time away from his family, engaging in activist work and organising, Twani's family has faced several threats from those against his work. As if it's not enough, Twani has survived six assassination attempts for standing against injustice and corrupt officials. But Twani vows to continue fighting for the cause of humanity, and some of his friends even fear for his life, criticising “dangerous people” in power.
Profile: Mabhelandile Twani thought South Africa would change for the better following the attainment of Independence in 1994.
He sprang into action after realising that the conditions of his country men and women has never changed as has been promised.
"We are witnessing high rate of unemployment, crime, GBV, lack of access to higher education, more people on government grants," said Twani.
Twani thought that independence would mean the return of land to the predominantly landless black working class, free decolinised education, free decent housing, and free access to recreational facilities.
" I thought life of a black man will change drastically. Township life will change and most people will experience less oppression. Our reality today tells us that 1994 was a betrayal and false solution for our structural problems. Also, the ruling party has sold out. The economy of this country still rests in hands of a few," said Twani.
Twani traces the origin of his activism to the late 1990s, when he was a teenager.
‘’ I took part in the anti - eviction and anti - privatisation, cancellation of the apartheid debt, and environmental struggles. At that time I was only 15 years of age.
‘’I was involved in the National Movement called Youth for Work and I was one of the founders of Progressive Youth Movement.’’ said Twani.
An experienced organiser and a community educator, Twani carries out popular education programmes, organise human rights conferences, and demonstrations against government austerity measures ‘’which promotes lack of housing, water cuts, and lack of jobs.’’
He is known for building study groups, organising youth camps, and championing access to water and land rights.
In 2020, Twani and his colleagues formed Intlungu YaseMatyotyombeni Movement and became its Organiser and Coordinator.
The movement is organizing the working-class community in Cape Town, to fight for basic services, water, housing, decent jobs, electricity, and toilets.
His organisation is a social justice movement that has been exposing the City of Cape Town’s injustices, such as criminalising land occupations by the landless, using law enforcement, to take people’s houses, and arresting people at land occupations.
He also condemned the culture of tenderpreneurship where powerful people are given tenders based on their connection to the city fathers at the expense of service delivery.
In May 2021, at the peak of the COVID 19 pandemic, Twani and his colleagues organised about 100 shake dwellers to hand over a petition demanding water, electricity, and toilets. The petition was handed over to the City of Cape Town.
Twani gives credit to interaction with fellow activists locally and internationally, who taught him strategies to resist oppression of any kind.
‘’I am against all forms of oppression. I believe in democratic practices, and understand that the poor have to be their own liberators," said Twani.
Twani faces risks due to his work.
‘’ In 2017 I survived an assassination attempt in an incident which saw one of my colleagues killed. To be an activist in South Africa, is risky,’’ said Twani.
‘’Even now many critical voices from the black working class live in hiding. I have survived about 6 assassination attempts,’’ said Twani.
Already my phone has been hacked by South African security.
Twani spends most of his time away from family and friends, "in the streets building the struggle, and inspiring among fellow cadres."
Despite these apparent challenges, Twani refuses to bow down.
His entry into activism was not by accident.
" I knew when I joined the struggle many painful events and attacks will occur. History and our ancestors fought against colonial conquest and capitalism. It is for this reason that I have no choice but to challenge the culture of oppression in my life time," said Twani.