Sounds of hope, joy, and optimism about the future of South Africa reverberated on the streets of Braamfontein on Woman’s Day as hundreds of activists from 18 community-based organisations, descended on the city to fashion new ideas about the country they love and are committed to.

Convened by the Rivonia Circle, over 500 of these activists held informative workshops in over nine venues in and around the city in settings such as The Station in downtown Jozi, Wits University, Section 27 Offices and the much vaunted and respected landmark of our constitutional democracy, The Constitution Hill.

The gathering, made up mostly of young, vibrant voices, shared their vision about the country they would like South Africa to be.

The loud message at the Activist Exchange event was that the power to create the future we desire as South Africans was entirely in the hands of the people.

The event proved that the youth of this country are not apathetic, especially when it comes to participating in politics. They disproved this notion and came in numbers on a public holiday to participate in political discourse and debates.

One of the participants, Nkosikhona Mpungose from Durban, could not hold back his excitement. He showered his colleagues with praises: “I am seeing kids here happy without taking any alcohol or any mind-altering substances of any kind. It shows that it is possible that we can be happy and enjoy ourselves without taking any substances.

“The sessions were very informative, spiced with diverse topics. I expected that we were going to be thrust into one venue and be lectured and leave without the satisfaction of sharing our ideas, as normally happens with these kinds of events. We don’t get this opportunity, it was one of a kind. I even suggested that in future, they should be held in smaller, regular circles in different provinces,” he said.

Chicco Babidi from Zola, whose organisation is Under Construction Ekasi Entertainment, said: “I was invited to this event to see other artists and share ideas with them. I do fine arts as a profession. I gained a lot of knowledge in the commissions. I am happy with everything that took place today.”

Phethani Madzibandila from Venda, who is a member of an organisation that helps students with science and maths, said: “I came to the Activist Exchange today as part of the organisation we run. We have been doing this project for over ten years. My work with Rivonia Circle started with working with different organisations in Venda to understand what democracy looks like. In the commission that I was in, we were debating whether to vote or not to vote. It’s a thorny issue in the country. Our democracy has been a minority democracy. As the years go, it is becoming more and more of the minority. It brings questions like, are people still believing in the idea of voting to bring in change, or have they completely given up because democracy seems not to be helping them. Those who deem themselves to be revolutionaries, need to answer those difficult questions that make people not to vote. The Activist Exchange set the right tone on this issue, and we look forward to more of such engagements.”

These views were echoed by the facilitators who ran some of the sessions.

Esther Padi, the chairperson of Innovative Kasi Organisations said there was a crisis in the country which needed the collective energy of the youth: “As an organisation, we felt we had to participate because South Africa needs a new look or identity. It is great to fuse arts and politics. Let our artists and ordinary South Africans rise. We are in a mess. Let’s take a stand and create the South Africa that we want.”

Esther received a loud applause at the gathering at Constitution Hill as she prodded the people to take a stand.

Gogo Londiwe Mntambo, who was part of the organisers of the event, said the exchange of ideas and different views had exceeded her expectations.

“I am really excited about the activist exchange because it is important for us to convene and engage our democracy and politics rather than simply opting out. While non-participation is a political decision, non-participation needs to take us somewhere. We need to push for something different. We must push for South Africa that we want in conversations with all these other organisations. The energy was super high. There’s arts and activism happening here, it is incredible to see.”

See attached the gallery of images that captured the mood and atmosphere of the event