UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS), housed within the College of Humanities, recently welcomed three hardworking community scholars as part of the Centre’s effort to educate and uplift communities to make a difference in society and uphold the fires of activism.
The scholars - Mr Thabane Miya, Ms Bandy Mdlalose and Mr Daniel Byamungu Dunia - form part of the CCS Community Scholarship Initiative (the Dennis Brutus Initiative) that focuses on participation from members of civil society organisations and movements in Durban to allow for exchanges between CCS academics and researchers and local civil society organisations.
This initiative ensures that theoretical understandings of the concept “civil society” are underpinned by practical experiences and that civil society organisations linked with the CCS have an opportunity to participate in evolving formulations of theories on civil society and use them in their own environments.
All three scholars have their roots in community-upliftment and human rights activism, and see their efforts as a “calling”.
Miya, who is currently involved in youth development and the housing struggle of women who are single parents in Mobeni Heights, described being a community scholar as an honour. ‘The Centre recognises the practical work that is being done by activists in communities but there is still the need to close the gap between the university narratives and practical work,’ he said.
KwaMashu resident and activist Mdlalose, has had her fair share of being the target of death threats, intimidation and violence; particularly for her work in Gender and LGBTI issues, xenophobia and environmental matters. ‘I understand the plight of people and I will continue to work to help them. Passion allows me to rise above the negativity and criticism because I know I am fighting for a just cause,’ she said.
Dunia of Isipingo is involved in social cohesion and the integration process of refugees and asylum seekers. He trains government officials and communities on refugees and asylum seeker rights and is involved in advocacy of the green paper for international migration.
This is his advice to other activists and community scholars: ‘Our work is hard. We are often viewed as criminals for doing what is right. We should develop other ways of activism but at the heart of it all, we should always put the best interests of our community first.’