Sizwe Shiba

Member, Occupy Umlazi

Sizwe Shiba hasn’t had it easy.  He was born in a rural area in the north of KwaZulu-Natal where he didn’t have access to quality education.

His father was blind and his mother – who was unemployed – had to struggle to raise him and his eight siblings. So when he moved to Durban fresh out of school he was determined to carve a better future for himself and others, irrespective of the personal cost.  When he felt the powers-that-be at his first place of employment were exploiting their workers, he started organising his peers to exercise their rights and was fired for “poisoning” them. This didn’t deter him though.

The 26-year-old works tirelessly to improve the living conditions of people who live in Umlazi, where he’s currently based.

In 2012 he was one of the people at the forefront of the Occupy Umlazi movement, which protested against poor service delivery in the area. He’s also involved in assisting disabled people in the area, negotiating on their behalf with government departments that have tried to evict them. He enthusiastically shares his skills and talent with the youth of Umlazi in an effort to keep them off the streets, and even though he admits he has no resources he is currently trying to work with the women of the area to start a community garden that can feed school-going children who often leave home hungry in the morning.

Shiba wants to be understood by everyone who is affected by the problems on the ground – young and old.

It’s for this reason that he can often be seen at the forefront of protest marches, clad in traditional dress and passionately articulating the issues he feels strongly about using isiZulu spoken word poetry.

“I chose this path because I wanted to make a difference in our living conditions,” he says.  “And I want our government to
listen to the people and respect them. I want to see people working together without pointing fingers at each other.” — Fatima Asmal