Action Kommandant!

Ashley kriel community house art

When filmmaker, Nadine Cloete, announced a few weeks ago that the documentary film on the life and death of Ashley Kriel was nearing completion it sparked widespread public interest. Within days of launching a public crowd funding campaign media owner and philanthropist Dr Iqbal Survé announced that he would assist in the funding and in so doing contribute to the finalization of the documentary project.

The documentary tells the story of the young revolutionary, a resident of Bonteheuwel and an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) guerrilla who was killed at the hands of apartheid security police.

We asked Nadine to tell us about her experience of making this documentary and here are her words:

AKYLDP: What have you learned that others might not know about telling stories of struggle particularly that of Ashley Kriel and the broader Bonteheuwel community?

NC: I think some people only know in theory about the hurt and anger that our people still carry because of our past. Doing the Ashley Kriel documentary I got to experience this on another level. People say ‘we must get over it’ but how can we ‘get over’ something that we don’t even know the truth about?

AKYLDP: Why did you get involved in this project?

NC: I was interested in the project after seeing the Jimi Matthews archive footage of Ashley. I was drawn in by his passion and charisma. I had heard the name a few times growing up (my dad was a history teacher), but I didn’t know anything beyond the name. I think seeing the archive footage stirred something within me and I wanted to know more about this person.

AKYLDP: Why did you choose film as a technique to tell the story of Ashley Kriel?

NC: Film is of course a visual medium and because of this it’s one of the best ways to break stereotypes. You can see who Ashley was.  You can see who his family and comrades are. You see these are not ill educated, drug addicts or gangsters – how we are often portrayed. Also with film you can communicate multi-layered emotions. I also think film is an easier medium to distribute.

AKYLDP: I am sure when you look back there were many ups and downs. What was the happiest moment of this entire process for you? (and why)

NC: One of the happiest moments was probably right in the beginning when one of Ashley’s comrades told me that she is happy its ‘one of our people doing the story’. It was really encouraging to hear this. Usually major production companies do this or white producers. I felt proud as a young black woman to be able to tell the story of a hero I can immediately identify with. So hearing that meant a lot to me. Also, of course, when the National Film and Video Foundation agreed to fund the archives. That was a huge relief.

AKYLDP: Where did you come from to get here and where do you return to once you’ve finished?

NC: Before I started with the interviews I of course was very naive as to what this would entail. Not just in terms of what it means to produce a documentary of this scale and nature but also the emotional side of things. In a sense the naivety was a good thing. It allowed me to just get in there with no doubt. As I became more entrenched in the story, things became more difficult for me to deal with. But not just me of course. I don’t think was easy for anyone who I interviewed to sit back and recall their time with Ashley. It was really great working with editor Khalid Shamis on this. He really understood the subject matter and helped shape a really powerful narrative.

I don’t think there’s a certain space I would ‘return to’. I mean, I was 24/25 years old when I started the project and now I’m turning 30!! So I guess I continue to grow and just feel blessed to carry this experience with me onto the next stage of life.

AKYLDP: Any words of wisdom for other young people who are interested in following in your footsteps?

NC: People will always advise but you really have to be confident in your own way of doing things. It is really important to have mentors and to surround yourself with people who are honest, even to the point of brutal honesty! One of my mentors is filmmaker Zulfah Otto-Sallies. Her honesty helps me grow. Follow your own instinct always. In terms of film – perseverance is key!




Race matters. It is evident everywhere. From the persisting structural racism manifested in everyday moments to the indiscriminate police brutally black bodies are subjected to. 21 years of democracy and South African youth too are burdened by race. This is what one young South African woman and #AshleyKrielAlumni has to say:


My blackness is a scar,

An unspoken mystery,

With a blood-drenched history.

My voice,

Nothing but an echo from afar.

My body’s a male canvas.

Public property,

Captive soul,

Prisoner to this body

To these bones, this skin, this Black skin, to this Blackness that is me.

I often feel like a human dartboard;



Taking stabs from every direction.

Pierced by violent reinforcements of masculinity,

Bearing the burden of Blackness like an unwanted foster child.

Motionless, taking stabs from every direction.

Supposedly emotionless,

Even as tears slow dance across my face,

All you see is Blackness,

And in silence I cry.

You see, the colour of my skin is not human enough so I need to bleed constantly to disprove my Blackness. I need to revisit the scars and recreate the wounds.

My blackness is a scar,

An unspoken mystery,

With a blood-drenched history.

My voice,

Nothing but an echo from afar.


(Snalo Mbombo)

Snalo Mbombo

Snalo is a young woman who was born and raised in the Eastern Cape and currently studying towards a degree in English Literature and Linguistics at the University of the Western Cape



I am not an African.

So if you know me personally and you have read the above statement you probably never thought of hearing that from me. [In April] I spent time with 29 other young South Africans. No one older than 32 and out of the 30 selected young people I was one of three white people who attended. The rest of the people was a mixture of Black, Coloured, one Indian and one Person with Ableism. The workshop was presented by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).

The camp’s aim was to create a space to talk to other races face to face about the themes Justice and Reconciliation.

Saying what we want and how we want to.

It started off as any other camp with small-chat served as a starter on the bus there, a really mammoth and intense main meal that we didn’t finish while making us feel quite bad afterwards and a dessert we’ll be talking about forever in reference to it being the best we’ve ever had.

In one of the sessions we were speaking of what makes us African and what defines us as African. It was going quite well until we became very honest. Ferociously honest. A beautiful black woman sitting across me made the statement that someone cannot be an African if they are white because of the heritage we have inherited from our European forefathers.

Hearing this I broke. I wept. It was the same feeling I felt when my mom told me my father passed away. A part of me died.

Now let me put this straight. She wasn’t ‘one of those black people’ that doesn’t like white people. This was a safe non-toxic space. This was an honest opinion. Said in love. No bitterness. She was merely saying what her heart said.

But it broke me.

The beautiful coloured woman next to me was wiping my tears of with her fingers as if it was her own. I could hear her blood flow through her hands and fingers. We were one. Just like the beautiful black woman across from me. I could hear her heart beat from across the room as she was stating what she did.

Why was this hurting so much though? What was it in me that squeezed out those salty tears?

To be viciously honest I cannot answer that. I just don’t know what it was that particularly hurt me. All I know is that it ripped out my identity and spat on it. Everything I am busy becoming since approximately 2012/2013 has been centred on the fact that I belong in Africa.

That I am from its luscious red soil. That I am proudly African. That I am welcome here.

This statement drilled into my heart like a jack hammer. That the colour of my skin could depend my identity really collided with my beliefs about Africa, people and God. I didn’t have to be a part of the Emzabalazweni/ Umzabalazo (struggle) to know how it felt to struggle for freedom. Yes, I don’t have the physical lashes on my back to prove it, but the guilt on my mind is struggle enough. For me and many other white South Africans.

The fact that we carry this guilt in itself is a sign of our Africaness. It is Africa’s welcoming arms that makes her who she is.

Her honesty also brought me some healing though. Her honesty, while painful, helped our dialogue to continue into a constructive building of our relationship although I did not agree with her. I could hear her heart and many other peoples’ hearts in Africa. I could see her pain.

I am born an African. I was raised an African. I am African by choice. I cannot run back to Europe when I feel like Africa is getting too much for me. The only place I can run to is inward and upward. To my neighbouring African brothers and sisters. From Cape to Cairo. From Madagascar to Morocco. To Azania (Africa).



 reblogged from:!AFRICAN/cmbz/554715e60cf23d01646ebdb0


Crafting Change Agents





Thursday evening the 28th of May I was inspired to witness a session in what is a continuous dialogue happening internationally among the 20 something youth of today.

The evening was an open platform for conversation around race and identity initiated by the American youngsters from the #craftingchangeagents #youthdialogue movement, supported by the @_IJR_ #AshleyKriel program conveners for the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.

It was an evening at the Districts Six Museum was opened by a short film on the Nama, an indigenous people in South Africa and followed by the open dialogue in which critical, unashamed points of view were expressed in a very respectful manner. There was a comforting atmosphere for youth from Africa and America to honestly voice their fears, frustrations as well as hopes and aspirations for themselves and those around them.

There was a surprisingly fresh approach to the Coloured Identity among various local youth on the evening as well as the recent police brutally weighing heavily on the American youths psyche. By these youths using art in the form of poetry, film and open discussion to deal with the injustices they are experiencing, they are making tremendous steps forward in influencing all those around them with a new found sense of hope towards more just societies all over the world.


Many of the local youth on the evening gravitated towards an opportunity for a discussion like this through the Ashley Kriel program, engaging youth all over South Africa in dialogues on various platforms. Ashley Kriel was Cape Flats youth leader murdered by the apartheid regime in the 1980s. He is recognized as the archetypal representative of student and youth leadership in the conquering of apartheid, from the Cape Flats. Ashley Kriel is finally becoming every new generation’s symbol of youth activism in the Western Cape.

Similarly the American youth present on the evening all gravitated to the evening via a movement which largely draws their motivation identifying with the recent black youth in America being killed by white officers of the law. They are literally becoming the voices of those which cannot share their experiences of injustice and calling the perpetrators to moral persecution.

A new generation of soldiers of justice are coming up on the horizon of a new dawn, a new day, a different way. This is a generation of inclusion and compassion, spearheaded by powerful women with focused streams of consciousness and the diligent will to execute them.

May this be a swift cleansing process  of the current male dominated chaos we are surviving right now via this new way of engaging with one another as humane beings exploring their sense of Self.

Ruben Engel

Artist and Activist




Standing on the apex of all that I think I know,
Wondering where all our leaders went,
are there any beautiful ones left?
Which way did the bluebird fly?
Did it leave with that rainbow?
That promise of equality?
Or did the dreams of our struggle fore-fathers die
As we took those first freedom breaths?
Which way did the blue bird fly? Where did the dream go?
Did it fly so far that we forgot about equal education,
Providing employment, adequate housing and economic equality?
I long for that dream.
That dream of Ashley Kriel, Cissy Gool, Albert Luthuli
And every south african deemed native, white, coloured or asian
Who have all dared to dream a dream that flew,
on blue bird’s wings,
somewhere over the rainbow and took that rainbow with it.
Where did the dream go?
Is it reserved for lucid, night time vigils,
lost in slumber.
And when we awake do we remember,
as this machine grinds and drives us forward,
or do we choose to forget?
Laying our ideals and dreams of freedom to die next to our regret?
Praying that when that blue bird returns it brings that rainbow along with it.
When will enough be enough?
When will our judgements no longer be clouded by our greed?
I sound my call hoping that blue bird hears my screams.
Or that you will find that rainbow in a dream.
And conjure it into this reality
So that we all can taste what it means to be free.
For now, as I stand here, on the apex of all that I think I know,
I hear our fore-fathers and mothers whispering to me on the wind
“Aluta, remember the dream, Continua.”

– Winslow Schalkwyk

Winslow Schalkwyk is a Cape Town born Artist/Activist, Poet, recovering perfectionist but first and foremost a Writer.

What Does Decolonisation Look Like?

Remembering a traumatic past is often, to most people, difficult. Looking for answers to today’s vexing problems in that traumatic past can take people to emotional and intellectual, even spiritual places they don’t often go. To strive for fairness and equality today, then, by confronting the past of racism and colonialism is always going to raise temperatures. What is going on at University of Cape Town regarding the statue of Cecil John Rhodes in light of this is hardly surprising. In this video, which speaks about what students and staff at Rhodes University think about their institution being named after the same colonialist, there are traces of the same frustration and anger felt at the University of Cape Town. What are the implications of all this? Will this end with Rhodes, or are South Africans showing signs of confronting their colonial past…?


Anecdotally at least, many of the instances of alleged racism appearing in the media seem to involve young people, between the ages of 18 and 35 years old. Take the recent fracas reported from Wits University where a young black student laid a complaint against another student who apparently mocked a lecturer’s pronunciation of English words and, when challenged, conducted a verbal assault – using racial epithets – on the complainant.

There is no simple approach to defining and understanding the complexity of racism. What is universally appreciated though, is that behaviour that leaves one person or group feeling discriminated against is the proverbial smoke suggesting there must be a fire somewhere.

How did we get to this point when so many young people are being drawn into the ugliness that is racism, discrimination, or just plain bullying on the basis of some or other set of perceptions? Is it unreasonable to believe that the old divisions that kept the older generation apart are yet to be rolled back? Similarly, can we assume that these old divisions and animosities are now being laid on the shoulders of young people by their parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and their entrenched institutions? Finally, if this is so, are we being reasonable to assert that if this continues, future generations will continue to be imprisoned in behaviour that does nothing to put a fractured nation, splintered societies back together again? This is precisely when we need to become something of a shadow of what we were when we arrived, clothed in rainbow colours, on the international stage, led by the great Nelson Mandela. Are we prepared to, in return for an illusion of power and authority, send the next generation into a sort of exile from each other?

A lost generation of young heroes fought for a freedom from all the separation we see around us today – Ashley Kriel among them. This is surely not what they gave their lives for.

What remains, and must be done is for the young generation today, to stand guard at the bridge separating the past from the future, to decide who and what crosses that bridge. Let us leave hate, spitefulness, empty rhetoric, and the twisted dwarfishness of superiority and inferiority behind – even if we have to take steps to understand what the past means. Understanding it does not mean we have to live it. Let us, the young people of today, appreciate past malevolence but never succumb to it. That is the mission we should set ourselves. The next generation demands it. What will be left otherwise? Another generation who cannot feel the freedom of equality and fairness; friendship and togetherness. Is this really what we want? If not, the cause of the future calls us to throw off the shackles that have been laid on our shoulders.

This is what Ashley Kriel fought for – it’s what we owe him, and those young women and men who fought and died alongside him.

Mark Peach, Researcher at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

You are the key to change

Living exemplary lives

Being part of the Ashley Kriel Youth Leadership Development Project was an absolutely amazing, life changing experience from the exposure to the different people, to the issues discussed.

The theme of the Project for 2014 is ‘Freedom to Create Change’. Now that we as South Africans have freedom in South Africa it is our responsibility to continually ask ourselves what the ways are in which we create change  and in so doing improve the lives of others? Another topic of discussion was “Freedom and Reconciliation”, discussing how we reconcile with one another. South Africa is characterised by great inequality, unemployment, particularly among the youth, changing leadership dynamics and perceptions towards current leadership. When dealing with reconciliation we have to revisit and reflect on the past, so as to reconcile. After having revisited the past and reflecting on how those events have shaped us, we had to reconcile the past and the present. It is only then that we can begin to talk about reconciliation among South Africans.  Some participants were of the opinion that we are unable to reconcile whilst there is still material inequality.

We as the Youth stand to confront contemporary issues we are faced with. We have to set aside racial differences. We therefore had to come up together, different in race and colour, to build South Africa.

Prior to my involvement with the Ashley Kriel Youth leadership Development Project I had never been in such a space before. Being around like-minded young people of different backgrounds and identities, each one bringing in his/her own story, his/her own plan for change and reconciliation in South Africa.  The zeal and passion of the facilitators and the participants is what made the project so powerful. The hospitability of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation is something indescribable. With this project I was introduced to a brave new world. A world of intense, structured and meaningful dialogue that gets one fired up to go and make a change.

Through the various workshop sessions and engagements with fellow participants I had to confront difficult things. I have had to interact and work with people I never thought I would have worked with. In so doing I have learned to try to be objective in my judgement and critique and fair in my decisions.

I can proudly say I have grown immensely in terms of advancing my own thinking, dialogue, communication and team work. After this Project I am highly motivated to lead myself so as to lead others. To live as an example and a servant of my people. I feel I have a huge responsibility not only towards myself but towards the masses, the nation. I am taking this and going with it.

Andiphe Ndlebe



I knew my skin tone when I was born in 1987, but that is what it was…only a skin tone. There was no cultural or political meaning sewed into the pores of my skin. I attended a crèche where only three children were darker than white. I was the lighter skin toned amongst the three. The other children treated us differently but I never understood why.

My primary school was a more racially mixed environment than my crèche. The politics of race was more visible, but it was not realised completely in our interactions. There were some social taboos which were never spoken but seemed like a universal truth at the time. For instance, you should not have a crush on a person from outside your ethnic and religious background. These values came from the students’ homes and got reinforced by not breaking the ‘tradition’ on the school grounds. Still, I was quite blind from the full meaning of race in South Africa.

Within the first week of my high school career I was confronted with the question, “What are you?” It was not a question asking who I was as a person, but rather objectifying my physical credentials. My response at the time seems so innocent, “I am human.” Yet they made me feel guilty by crudely correcting me with, “Are you Indian or Malay?” Since I have never been confronted by this question before, I did not know how to answer. When I arrived home I asked my father whether I am Indian or Malay. He told me that he was Indian and that my mother was Cape Malay. Arriving at school the next day I answered their question proudly. However, they did not act too kindly to my response that I was mixed-race. They walked away from me in disgust, as if I was some abomination…as if I was some sin.

I went to an Islamic private school, which the predominant student population was Indian and Cape Malay. Since I was 50/50 of the two ethnic groups I was never completely accepted by both ethnic groups. I had to hide my other ethnic half in order to fit with whichever ethnic group I needed to at the time. It was only after two years that I managed to gain friends who saw such notions of racial discrimination as nonsensical. Still, I felt stifled by the racism I experienced between these two ethnic groups. Even though all the students and all the teachers (except one) were of the same religion they focused more so at their racial differences. It was the implicit details of racism that struck me. It felt strange to confront who I am through the lens of my skin tone.

It has been many years since the days of high school, and I have had other experiences at other institutions of racial discrimination. But that high school experience turned my skin into part of my identity. Before then, it was never part of my self-construction of who I am, but since then my mixed-race has placed me into the depths of not just who I am but where I am.

Shu’eib Hassen, 25


Equal opportunities for the Youth of South Africa – How much has changed since 1994?

As I write this, I’m having a drink with my colleague Nick Owsley, a graduate with an Honours Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Cape Town. With Human Rights Day approaching I can’t help but think how fortunate our generation is. A mere 18 years ago, in South Africa it was regarded as breaking the law for a black person to have a drink with a white person in many watering holes – how far we have come since then.Thankfully all that has changed ad with this change democracy has done away with the old and has breathed new beginnings. South Africans now have equal rights and equal opportunities.

As a young person, what excites me most about democracy is the fact that the opportunities for young people to craft better lifestyles for themselves are enormous. What’s even better is the fact that they are open to everyone, regardless of colour, creed or other qualifying factors. Everywhere you turn, new programmes and projects are being implemented to uplift young people.

Sadly, the truth is that many of our young people who need these opportunities the most often do not know of their existence.
Lazy or Misinformed? I am of the belief that I am one of many youths that has been able to access a slice of the opportunities that came with the advent of democracy. Because of this I now find myself educated and employed. Sadly though, it’s a different case for many of my peers. I often find myself pondering about the challenges they face on daily basis, as young South Africans without jobs, skills or education.

In the past when I reflected on such matters, I invariably came to the conclusion that the reason behind their status quo is that many of them are simply just lazy or reluctant to look for opportunities or take on other alternatives. Or perhaps they are waiting for manna from heaven (government).

It was only after I went home for my university holidays that I changed my assumption. Upon my arrival I bumped into an old friend of mine I schooled with named Ali. Unlike me, Ali completed his matric with flying colours.
Although he did well in matric, I was rather shocked to learn that he was sitting at home, unable to continue with his studies due to financial instability. My knowledge of Ali’s financial challenges made me empathise with him initially, however my empathy was soon replaced by exasperation. Did Ali not know that there were a lot of programmes and bursaries available to help people like him? Surely he must have known about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa (NSFAS) or about the Vodacom bursary scheme or the SACTWU bursary fund?

In truth, Ali was clueless that such programmes even exist. And he is not the only one. Studies show that 8 out of 10 young people in SA (especially in the rural areas) are unaware about the available opportunities and programmes provided by the government, corporates and other stakeholders to assist them where necessary.
Surely something must be going wrong, and it can’t just be ignorance. It’s more than that. Why is this vital information not filtering through to those who need it the most?

Information is key

An article by Wendy McMillan and Robert Barrie reveals that most students from rural areas have to rely on other students who experienced university to access information, including assistance in applying and registering. The data also showed that knowledge about university access is severely lacking in rural areas.
“I didn’t know about bursaries or something like that so that you can go to university,” explained one student when interviewed.
For someone who grew up in the underdeveloped province of Limpopo, I would agree that accessing information as well as a general lack of information is a major concern in rural areas. Not only is it difficult to access, sometimes it just never reaches the intended audience.

Lack of skills and resources

Information on how they can better their lives is crucial to the development of rural communities, but there are many barriers faced in terms of accessing this information. Some of these include access to internet, libraries, electricity, telecommunication, utilities, roads and transportation, low level of literacy, lack of proper information services, technical competencies and much more.
Although some communities in South Africa have these resources, poor infrastructure can hinder access to them for many. For instance, some people have to travel long distances to reach these services (i.e. libraries, clinics, internet café etc.).
Skills shortages also contribute to this dilemma. Although there are some communities with access to resources for information, this often does not resolve anything because they don’t have the skills to use those resources. Many people can’t operate the computer or make use of the internet, training is in short supply and thus these resources fail to serve the very communities they were supposed to be assisting. In addition, the skills that many who are fortunate enough to attend tertiary institutions are taught often do not meet the needs of the job market for which they are being prepared.

Where to from here?

Fortunately all is not doom and gloom, there is a way to improve information dissemination and make sure people (rural or otherwise) are aware of the opportunities available to them.
Firstly, libraries and information centres should develop their collections, facilities and services to meet the information needs of their patrons. To achieve this, the government and its organizations need to carefully and thoroughly understand information needs, ways people seek information, information services and information systems. Furthermore, it is important that the government understands the purpose for which information is required, the environment where the user operates, sources and channels preferred for acquiring information.

In a paper on rural development, Manir Abdullahi Kamba of Bayero University Kano in Nigeria says that it should be a priority to educate communities to know the importance of information that is relevant to their immediate activities. He adds that harnessing information resources for development can only be achieved when the community values information, such that they are ready to seek and use information in solving daily activities regardless of the distance, format or medium in which the information is available.

As for skills shortage, according to an article on skills.oecd, education and training systems need to intimately understand the demand for skills and the drivers of changes in skills demand. Furthermore, employers need to work with education and training systems to provide that information and design training that meets their practical needs.
I am excited about a new project from Fetola ( ) called GAP, the Graduate Asset Programme. GAP is aimed at growing the SME sector in South Africa. By helping place thousands of capable and willing unemployed graduates into internships, GAP will assist the host businesses to gain much-needed skills and the graduates to gain valuable experiential learning. In this way both parties benefit.

Programmes run through the NYDA (National Youth Development Agency) are also looking at ways to address critical skills shortages. One example is the Accelerated Artisans and Skills Training Programme. After going through an assessment, a young person can either undergo electrical, plumbing, boiler making, welding, bricklaying, carpentry, forklift, computer programming or air conditioning and refrigeration training. In addition, to increase the trainee’s chances of securing work opportunities, the programme also includes life skills and job preparedness training.
I firmly believe the youth of South Africa have enormous opportunities. It is a matter of implementing new strategies of sending out information and ensuring that it reaches its designation, ensuring that the information is well understood and not misinterpreted in any way. This also includes promoting and implementing active programs that can address skills shortages and actively provide training (on the job experience), particularly in areas and industries that lack capable human resources the most.

By Abram Molelemane