Khayelitsha’s New Activist Centre: A Home for Social Justice
Built to house organisations campaigning for social justice, Isivivana is the first of its kind in Khayelitsha. [The word “Isivivana” means a pile of stones that mark a pathway.] So far, nine organisations have moved into the centre including Treatment Action Campaign, Médecins sans Frontières, Equal Education, Pro Bono and Workers’ World. These organisations previously had no other option than to rent working space in areas that were potentially unsafe and lacking facilities.
Despite the fact that thousands of artists and entrepreneurs live in Khayalitsha, it has no real office space and very few public amenities.
“The Isivivana Centre is part of changing Khayelitsha from a dormitory township beyond the city limits into an actual place, with infrastructure that serves people,” says Isaacs, a trustee of the Isivivana activist centre.
The building – which cost approximately R50 million to construct – is located next to the Thusong sports centre and boasts five shops as well as a library, cinema, meeting hall, classroom and legal advice centre. The library and legal centre are open to the public who are able to access these amenities free of cost; while the hall, cinema and classroom are rented out at a “modest fee.”
The centre is owned by the Khayelitsha Youth and Community Centre Trust and was primarily funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies with support from the Harry Crossley Foundation and the Bertha Foundation. Local labour was used for construction and 20% of the tender value was awarded to Khayelitsha subcontractors which means that more than R10 million was funnelled into economic development in the area. Furthermore, all security, cleaning and gardening staff are insourced.
Artwork and murals from local artists have begun spreading across the walls – adding life and a sense of inspiration to the centre’s exterior.
One of the organisations now housed in Isivivana is the Social Justice Coalition (SJC). After reportedly suffering multiple robberies in their previous offices, the SJC have commented that they feel safer in the new premises.
Phumeza Mlungwana says: “Apart from our offices getting robbed our staff members got robbed on their way to and from work, the area that we were in was far from trains and taxis so people had to walk and here that is not the case.”
Equal Education Deputy General Secretary Ntuthuzo Ndzomo says that the centre is a different space that is safe and convenient which makes it easy for organisations to interact with one another. She adds: “We no longer struggle looking for halls to rent out for events because they are all here and it’s making it easy for people to find us.”