Preparing South Africans for life in a full democracy

Imagine that you're a poor South African and your shack home, and those of many other people, is going to be razed to put up permanent housing. It's likely you will not be able to live in the new apartments. What would you do?

Marie and S'bu Zikode in Kennedy Road settlement.jpgMarie Strom and community organizer S'bu Zikode.

Marie Strom, a democracy educator in South Africa, has helped train many community organizers, including a man named Isaac who successfully organized his neighbors who were facing just this situation.

In the early 1990s, when the South African government was beginning to negotiate an end to legally enforced apartheid, Marie joined the staff of Idasa as the organization “started to imagine what it might entail to prepare South African citizens for life in a full democracy.” Listen to Marie talk about how Idasa finds and trains community organizers and study circle leaders like Isaac, and what she has learned. Her hope is that South Africa will develop a culture where people recognize the value of nonformal education and see study circles* as a way of learning and coming together to solve problems.

  • Study circles have been used successfully in Sweden for over 100 years. Today, about one-fifth of the population participates in study circles annually. In the U.S., Everyday Democracy is one organization that offers training for study circle facilitators.


S'bu Zikode (pictured above) works with a fantastic organisation in Durban, Abahlali-baseMjondolo ( and I am not sure if this is an event, blogpost, or upcoming article but with the upcoming elections on Wednesday, hope for the future of democracy would take note of lessons learned from ABM in Durban.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs