Cape Town's Human Rights Heroes

A tribute to champions

We're all aware of injustice that people from all walks of life face, and it takes a special kind of person not to turn a blind eye. Despite harassment, prejudice and even imprisonment, Capetonian activists have fought for the rights and protections enjoyed by all. Those who make a real difference command our respect.

Zachie Achmat
Zachie Achmat is a South African activist against AIDS and the founder and chairman of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).  He is openly gay and was diagnosed with HIV in 1990. He has fought for complete and no-cost treatment for HIV-infected South Africans and has struggled to bring hope to a country ravaged by AIDS. He is considered a hero among those living with AIDS.

Dr Ivan Toms
Born in Cape Town in 1953, Ivan was a founder member of the Organisation of Lesbian and Gay Activists (later the Organisation of Lesbian and Gay Action (OLGA)). He met with ANC members in exile to discuss lesbian and gay rights and was instrumental in the inclusion of gay rights in the draft constitution of the ANC, in 1991. Despite imprisonment and anti-gay harassment, Ivan remained true to his convictions and laid the foundations for the rights and protections enjoyed by lesbian and gay South Africans today.

Professor Crain Soudien
Crain Soudien is involved with a number of local and national social and cultural organisations and currently chairs a Ministerial Committee on Transformation in Higher Education. He is a board member of Equal Education; a Khayelitsha-based organisation that has successfully campaigned for school repairs, a National Policy on School Libraries and a better education for disadvantaged children.

Ingrid Daniels
Ingrid's experience in the disability sector spans a period of over 25 years and she has received several awards. Ingrid is currently on the Board and Management Committee of the South African Federation for Mental Health and Alexandra Hospital Health Facility Board, where she passionately advocates for the empowerment and rights of persons with a disability. Read more about Cape Mental Health.

Helen Zille
Our Premier of the Western Cape is a former anti-Apartheid activist who famously exposed the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko. As mayor, Zille presided over rapid growth and development in Cape Town. Unemployment rates declined, the city's debt was cut by R1 billion and crime declined by an unbelievable 90%.

Anne Mayne
In March 1973, Anne Mayne was gang raped, while taking a short cut through a small park. Left traumatised and with no one to turn to for support, Anne set up the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, so that women could take a stand together against violence to women. The trust offers advice and support for rape victims in Observatory, Athlone and Khayelitsha. Anne's tireless contribution to making Cape Town a safer place for women has changed many lives.

Michael Scholl
Michael founded the White Shark Trust in 2002, which represents the longest, ongoing population study of White Sharks in the world. Over 1 000 sharks have been identified around Dyer Island in Gansbaai, using photographic identification methods developed by Scholl. Over 6 000 shark observations have been catalogued in the White Shark Trust database. Read more about shark conservation in Gansbaai.

Annette Cockburn
Annette served as Chairperson of the Western Cape Street Children’s Forum (1990 – 2000) and also on the Inter-ministerial Committee on Youth at Risk, charged with the transformation of the Child and Youth Care System in South Africa. She has published extensively on street children, presented numerous papers both nationally and internationally, and is a passionate children’s rights activist. She is currently a board member of StreetSmart SA, a non-profit organisation dedicated to social development and educational upliftment for street children. Read more about StreetSmart.

By Lisa Nevitt

Meet some of Cape Town's inspiring people in our Social Section, and enjoy your city on Human Rights Day on the 21 March with this selection of things to do for free. Plus, work up a sweat at the Mandela walk and jog.

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