Thamsanqa Hamilton Hukwe

Thamsanqa Hamilton Hukwe was born in Johannesburg on the 25th February, 1977. He is the second of four children. He was raised by his mother and father in Nxarhuni and Soweto.  During his high school years in Nxarhuni and Soweto, he became aware of the political situation in the country through watching political films like “Cry Freedom”. He also deepened his political awareness through reading material published by the Azanian People’s Organisation, and books such as ‘I write what I like.’

His own experiences of mistreatment by the white farmers, and having to walk long distances avoiding trespassing on white farms whenever he went to visit his school mates who were residing on white farms, further awakened him to the reality of the implication of his skin colour. Throughout his school years, he participated in the Azanian Student Movement (AZASM) activities.

In the year 2000, he enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies and Economics at the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he later became a student counsellor at UNISA Learning Centre. In the same period, he became an organiser for Landless People’s Movement in Freedom Park, Johannesburg, linking the crisis of student accommodation issues with the land question.

After he completed his Bachelor’s degree, he enrolled for Post- Graduate Certificate in Education, hoping to secure a teaching job. Nevertheless, he was told to join the governing party if he wanted to secure a teaching job, and he refused to join. He was then on the basis of his political beliefs refused a teaching job. He then became actively involved in the development of community and political education programme in Freedom Park. It was around this time, that he built a critical land occupation mass movement in Freedom Park, influencing different communities in Johannesburg South to identify and occupy land for housing development purposes.

In 2002, he was one of the community activists arrested during the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. He was detained at Johannesburg Central Police Station. After his release, he continued with his studies at UNISA and with organising Freedom Park community to resist evictions and fight for decent housing.

He dropped out from the University in 2004 because of an inability to pay fees. In 2006, he got an opportunity to do a one-year learnership as a Tour Guide in Gold Reef. In 2007, he got an opportunity to do an internship with African Explosives Limited in Johannesburg. In 2008, he started working as a Telesales Consultant for the Smollan Group and then re-enrolled with UNISA to continue with his studies. He committed two hours of study from Monday to Friday after work without fail and eight hours on Saturdays and Sundays.  

In 2012, he completed his studies in Development and Economics. In 2013, he enrolled for a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and completed in 2014. Because of the refusal of the Smollan Group to grant him study leave for his teaching practical, he took twelve weeks un-authorised leave and was then expelled from work. He is still contesting in labour court the unfair dismissal by Smollan Group.   

In May 2017, he started working at the Ecumenical Service for Socio–Economic Transformation (ESSET), as a Community-driven Development Programme Officer. He has extensive experience in mass community mobilisation, organising and, most recently, popular education. His specific areas of expertise are facilitating learning and teaching environment, and in addition, training community activists on leadership, organising and advocacy for social change.

He has occupied different leadership positions in civic, youth and political organisations. He served in 1999 as an HOD for education in South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO)-Freedom Park. In 2003, he was part of the formation of the Socialist Azanian Youth Revolutionary Organisation (SAYRO) and was elected in the founding congress to be a political commissar. In 2007, he initiated Community Literacy and Numeracy Group (CLING) in Freedom Park and was elected as a coordinator of the community education programs. The community education program, as spearheaded by CLING, led to the formation of mass based grass root organisation known as Abahlali base Freedom Park, struggling for decent housing, land and jobs in Freedom Park.

Throughout his work as a community activist, has always been known for commitment and discipline in fighting against all forces that seek to reduce marginalised communities to subservient beings. He has been involved in anti-privatisation struggles in the late 90’s and the formation of Landless People’s Movement in the early 2000s.

He was arrested in 2002 with Andile Mngxitama and Ann Eveleth amongst others during the protest around World Summit on Sustainable Development. He was arrested again in 2007 in Freedom Park during the land occupation protest. 

He has a special interest in the education for liberation theory of Paulo Freire; he believes in the organised power of the oppressed and exploited to radically change their living conditions and in the process become the architects of the future of the generations to come.