Peace is a group effort, says IY leader

Kenny Tokwe’s fight for proper housing and land still continues.

Whether its a fire, a mudslide or simply a family in need in Imizamo Yethu, Kenny Tokwe is always behind the scenes arranging help.

Mr Tokwe has been a community leader in the township for more than 10 years.

“I love this community and it is my home and these are my people. We have lots of issues here, but I always feel that together we can fight these problems and overcome anything,” he says.

Mr Tokwe grew up in the Eastern Cape but came to Cape Town as a student after joining the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), which was started in the wake of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

“The student movement fought the Bantu education system and homeland system that deprived our dignity. It was a harsh time where I was arrested and detained by security forces,” says Mr Tokwe.

Later, he joined the United Democratic Front (UDF) and spent 18 months in solitary confinement during the 1980s because of his role in the anti-apartheid struggle.

“I started doing underground work for the Africa National Congress (ANC), which is when I started getting harassed by security, which is when I decided to flee to Hout Bay.”

He adds: “We fought for all who lived in Hout Bay. We led many protests. There were many activists that I worked with and after the unbanning of political organisations, I became the branch secretary of ANC in Hout Bay.”

In 1990, there was a major struggle for land in Hout Bay and in December of that year, a fire caused more drama, says Mr Tokwe .

“There was a big fire in one of the settlements on Princess Road, an area known as ‘Sea Product’ at the time, where we lost four lives of our people, and then we were labelled with bad names like gypsies and squatters.”

It was then, says Mr Tokwe, that he decided to lead the Imizamo Yethu community and fight for better services and a better life.

“It’s only through community that we can build the integration and transformation that we need to build a better South Africa,” he says.

“I believe if you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with people. South Africa is still a country with two nations: one majority poor and one minority rich, so we need to work together to bring better development through peace. Peace is a group effort.”

Silke Rylands, the director of Ubuntu Charity e.V, a non-profit organisation registered in Germany, says Mr Tokwe is “well respected” in IY and many appreciate his efforts.

“From my experience, he helps wherever he can and tries to get other people to help too. He has an open ear for everyone and tries to get different people together.”.

She adds that Mr Tokwe has spent several years working on plans to build a community centre.

“He doesn’t give up on making it happen. He’s not always had it easy – sometimes people don’t see the bigger picture and long-term effects. But, generally, I’d say he’s very much respected in the community and people appreciate his work a lot.”

In 1992, Mr Tokwe played a role in naming Imizamo Yethu as well as many of the streets in the area. He also founded the Sijonga Phambili College, which has helped many struggling pupils.

Mr Tokwe says the struggle continues for IY, but the community has come a long way from where it used to be.

In the future, he hopes to see more integration and development.

“Peace, stability and integration of many schools is needed as many parents have no money to transport their children outside of Hout Bay,” he says.

He says the building of houses and work on the Mellon Educare at the Moravian School, with the building of more classrooms and a library, are among some of his memorable moments in Hout Bay.

“I will continue to serve the community that I love, my community.”