The Legacies of Apartheid Wars Project was established in the Rhodes University History Department in 2011. Its aim is respond to the pervading silences and adversarial public debates that have characterised the legacies of apartheid era conflicts by facilitating creative conversations between people who were constructed as “other” to each other during this period of history. The LAWs Project was founded by Rhodes doctoral student Theresa Edlmann and is funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.


Archiving South Africa’s history: Kier Schuringa

Behr Buthelezi 

The apartheid wars, families and fiction: Mark Behr in conversation with Mbongiseni Buthelezi 

Doherty Liebenberg 

Reflections on the “Mekhonjo! On the Other Side” exhibition: photographers Christo Doherty and John Liebenberg in conversation with SWAPO ex-combatants 

  Conway Magadla Van Eeden

Men, women and war: considering gender and militarism: Daniel Conway, Siphokazi Magadla and Janet van Eeden


The wars within South Africa: legacies of the 1980s Eastern Cape uprisings: Janet Cherry in conversation with Amabutho of Nelson Mandela Bay and SADF conscripts


Gamelihle Sibanda is one of only three people in Africa professionally trained in biomimicry; there are two in South Africa and one in Egypt. For him, very importantly, biomimicry is not about just taking nature’s intelligence and turning it to the use of humans, it is also about benign materials and consequences for the planet.

Speaking at Think!Fest Sibanda gave the audience ways of distinguishing various approaches to using the cleverness of natural systems:

  • Biomimetics: uses natural designs but is not necessarily environmentally friendly, like velcro, clever but made of synthetic materials
  • Bio-inspired: like flight, the plane matches the bird’s wing design, but again, the materials used and the impact on the environment have severe repercussions
  • Bio-utilisation: like using bacteria to treat sewage — it’s usually cleverer than the old chemical way
  • Bio-philia: reconnecting with nature and recognising its important effects on us as a species

Biomimicry, he says is not just about copying nature’s strategies, it’s also about looking for the deep principle of how something works so well. And there are various levels of this, from form and shape, to process and then to the imbedded system itself. “Biological models are set up for resilience and we discover that they ar diversified and decentralised,” he said.

As examples of forms and shapes that have been copied, he included:

  • the Eastgate building in Harare designed by Nick Pierce
  • the wingtips of aeroplanes which reduce drag and improve lift
  • honeycombed strength-bearing structures fashioned after bones
  • spirals and vortices which is now used for pumps
  • iridescence — colour put into structures by using texture rather than paint

For processes, he named:

  • the high-strength material of spider webs and the UV coating which stops birds crashing into their webs
  • water harvesting from sand
  • the skin of the shark which rejects microbes for the texture of the walls of hospitals (and used by the US for their swimsuits in the recent Olympics)

For system, he sketched how nature usually works:

  • collaboratively rather than in competition
  • systemic rather than linearly
  • open source rather than privatised
  • long term rather than short term
  • self organising rather than a fixed structure
  • locally attuned rather than global
  • multifunctional rather than unifunctional
  • optimisation rather than maximisation

All things in nature are made of just four elements, he said, and all of them break down. Taking a tip from that we must move to the situation where “one person’s waste is another’s resource” and we must “push the agenda towards non-toxic materials and re-use of materials.”


Zahira Asmal has an unusual self-made job; she looks for gaps in which she can bring together architects, city managers, government officials, designers, advertisers, to bend their intelligence to making lives better for those usually not served by the design industry. During the World Cup in 2010 she brought an array of people in the media to South Africa to do more than just imbibe the ready-made spectacle in the stadiums, she got them to engage with the country at all sorts of levels and to produce stories from that experience. One of her bugbears is how this country presents itself to the world (a parade of game reserves, beadwork and ethnic dancing) and she has made strenuous interventions in getting those responsible for this image abroad to think more carefully about its presentation and intention. Designing South Africa is her business and she talked about it at Think!Fest: Zahira Asmal

Sean-Davison-with-his-mot-007 Sean Davison was arrested and tried in New Zealand for helping his old and very ill mother die. He turned the experience into two books Before we say goodbye and After we said goodbye. As a result of the experience he has started an organisation in South Africa called Dignity SA. His story can be listened to here: Sean Davison


Joris Lohman, chair of the Youth Food Movement in the Netherlands, which is part of the international Slow Food Youth Network, and a founder of the annual Food Film Festival in Amsterdam, spoke about how the YFM is trying to change farming and consuming of food by connecting, farmer with chef, food designer with lobbyist and retailed with policymaker. Lohman was brought to Think!Fest by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. His talk is here: Joris Lohman


“I believe that AfrikaBurn is a movement that changes people’s lives through participation. The notion of AfrikaBurn as just a party is an aspect secondary to the role of experience, it’s about what’s happening in the moment that’s important,” says Monique Schiess, co-ordinator of the six-day creative explosion in the harsh Tankwa Karoo in the Northern Cape. Schiess’s presentation, Practising Imagining, is here: Monique Schiess

Think!Fest speakers met to debate the state of South Africa’s education system and what need to be done to fix it. Their solutions ranged from breaking the cycle of power that seems to have gripped public service to standing up for our rights as citizens. Members of the panel were David Wylde of Penreach, Veronica Wantenaar from Partnerships for Possibility in South Africa, Ashley Westaway of the Grahamstown Area & District Development Agency education, Doron Isaacs of Equal Education and Sarah Sephton from the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown.

Click the following link to listen to the debate: Education Debate

Equal Education will continue to give support to learners who are claiming their rights to equal education in South African schools. Doron Isaacs, Deputy-General Secretary of Equal Education (EE), said that it was important for the media and South Africans in general to understand that the organisation did more than fight on behalf of learners but that it enabled learners themselves claiming their rights and speaking out about the injustices in schools.

Speaking at the 2013 Think!Fest lecture series, Isaacs referred to a struggle by young people of Moshesh Senior Secondary School in Matatiele, on the Eastern Cape border with KwaZulu-Natal.

The school was under bad management, suffered from teacher absenteeism and shortage of teachers, the principal had been absent for months without taking a formal leave, lack of school infrastructure and shortage of textbooks.
EE was invited by learners to support their struggle for better education.

A group of Cape Town learners who are also members of EE went to visit the school with their facilitator. Isaacs said that these learners went on door-to-door campaign, organised meetings with the residents, went to see the chief in the area and went to see the principal about the state of Moshesh Senior Secondary School.

He said that at the end Palesa Monyokole, a learner at Moshesh took her principal to court for being absent from school without taking formal leave.

“When a 17-year-old takes her principal to court it sends shockwaves throughout the Eastern Cape,” he said. “It sends shockwaves to the patronage,” said Isaacs.

He said that it was disappointing that when this case went to court it was reported as another EE case against the minister in the media although the complainant is Monyokole.

Monyokole has also created a system of monitoring how the school is run. Isaacs said that she keeps a journal where she records how attendants of teachers and whether they came to school drunk or not, how long they stay in class, textbook audits and keeps record of school infrastructure.

So far there has been an improvement at Moshesh School. The principal has been suspended and teachers come to school on time and sober.

He said that this case was testament to the type of accountability that EE installed in schools. “The kind of accountability that we are advocating for is bottom-up,” said Isaacs. “We try to organise on the ground.” He said that the struggle for better education to all was important in South Africa. “The school that you attend affirms you of your social class in society,” said Isaacs.

Click on the following link to listen to his presentation: Doron Isaacs

patricia glyn -
Picture credit:
Patricia Glyn, a former South African radio and television broadcaster, talks about her meeting with Dawid Kruiper, an old Bushman, which eventually led to the journey into the Kalahari Desert where he was born. In her presentation Glyn talks about her admiration for the Bushmen’s lifestyle, their interaction with the environment and their philosophy on land.

Click on the following link to listen to her presentation: Patricia Glyn

Although non-governmental organisations are often seen as progressive they can work to suppress the struggles of rural agrarian societies in South Africa. Kirk Helliker, Head of Department of Sociology at Rhodes University spoke from his research and showed that a relationship of dependents emerge when these NGOs engage with rural agrarian social movements. As a result of this relationship NGOs control the activities of social movements.

Click the following link to listen to his presentation: Kirk Helliker


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