The wilderness is right on our doorstep. To have such a diversity of animals in South
Africa is a privilege. But in cities, many see their proximity as a threat. As human
development encroaches on natural habitats, more animals are in positions they
wouldn’t have been in before – trapped in buildings, hit by vehicles, and poisoned by
rodenticides. Urban wildlife need protection now more than ever, a responsibility
Claudius Sibanda has taken up with zeal. For the past 10 years, he’s dedicated his time
to rehabilitating these creatures and returning them to the wild.
Sibanda is one of the founding members of Friends of Free Wildlife, a community-based
animal rescue organisation located in Johannesburg. In his care are owls, tortoises, and
porcupines, as well as jackals, genets, storks and a myriad animals that you don’t expect
to see roaming the city streets.
The year was 1989. South Africa was in the throes of apartheid. Women in townships
were the most oppressed on account of their gender, race, and class. Subjected to
atrocities at the hands of men, they had nowhere to turn. When Mandisa Monakali’s
husband assaulted her, there were no crisis centres nearby, counsellors who spoke her
language, or anyone to stand up for her.
Monakali began Ilitha Labantu in Gugulethu. It was the only organisation to support
victims of gender-based violence in Western Cape townships at the time. The initiative
has since expanded to other provinces, providing life-saving services. These range from
counselling and support groups to safe houses for women to move in and move on with
Louzanne Coetzee doesn’t need to see the track to dominate it. The Paralympic athlete
is breaking records despite only beginning her running career seven years ago at
university. Coetzee says. She was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a condition
that results in undeveloped retinas and loss of vision. Yet Coetzee still leaves dust in her
In 2016, she accomplished the unthinkable. Coetzee broke the world record in the T11
category for the 5 000m. This made her the first blind female athlete to run this distance
in under 20 minutes. On top of that, Coetzee holds the 800m record in Africa.
The school bell rang out in the distance. Sboniso Hlope unzipped his bag and carefully
removed his books. Struggling to balance, he placed a jotter on his lap and began to
write. Hlope had no desk to work on, no teacher to listen to, and no classroom to
participate in. Diagnosed with autism, he needed to attend a school that catered to him.
But his father, a gardener, couldn’t afford it. So every day, Hlope sat under a tree, in the
valley of KwaNyuswa in KwaZulu-Natal, yearning for an education. Little did he know,
his story was about to become the lesson of a lifetime for South Africa.
Touched by Hlope’s perseverance, the woman who employs his father shared the boy’s
plight on social media. Her photographs of the neatly-dressed child reading under a
tree broke the hearts of all who saw it. The Angel Network, a non-profit organisation,
caught wind of Hlope’s story and began crowdfunding for his schooling requirements.
Within months, they received more than R80 000, with each donation bearing a message
for Hlope. Thanks to the aid of countless South Africans, his dream has now come true.
Nazeema Jacobs never imagined herself blossoming like this. After leading a life of
non-stop clubbing and drug addiction, everything took a turn for the worse. For five
years, she had nowhere to live but the streets of Cape Town. Her story isn’t an isolated
case. According to the Western Cape Government, there are close to 5 000 people who
are homeless in the city. Simply providing shelter and handouts isn’t working. So how do
we end the cycle of homelessness and addiction?
Three years ago, Jacobs joined Streetscapes, a gardening project that rehabilitates and
uplifts the homeless. Their urban garden grows vegetables to be sold to local
businesses and is tended by people who come off the street. The profits, along with
donations, go toward paying these budding gardeners. Working the land, gently
planting each seed, and watering the crops has given Jacobs a routine, responsibility,
and an income. These are all key to forming stability – and a sense of purpose.