Nomsa Mazwai wants everyone to walk to freedom

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Nomsa Mazwai. Picture: Rosetta Msimango
Nomsa Mazwai. Picture: Rosetta Msimango


Nomsa Mazwai is consistent. Even before she made waves as a musician and the youngest sister of culture icon Thandiswa and poet and writer, Ntsiki Mazwai, she had the welfare of women at heart.

When she was appointed the general manager of the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, Mazwai made it clear that one of her aims was to ensure that people felt safe and enthusiastic about coming to the neighbourhood she actually lives in.

So she started Funk It I’m Walking.

“The purpose of the organisation is to make it safe for a woman to walk at any time of the day, in any condition. But in order to get that outcome, everybody needs to participate,” Mazwai explains. “Women are a vulnerable group and in any community where they are vulnerable, it means gay men and transgender persons are vulnerable. If the community doesn’t know how to keep women safe, then no one is safe.”

For the last eight months, she has been facilitating evening walks on the first Thursday of each month to cultivate a culture of Sowetans living and circulating their rands within neighbourhood businesses without fear of being victims of crime.

Despite the unfavourable weather, this Thursday saw a good, socially distanced turnout for Funk It I’m Walking.

With the support of the Gauteng community safety department, these walks include visible policing with respected community police forum members who live in the areas scattered along the route. The route is along restaurants and other businesses to encourage patronage of the walkers. This way, the onus is on every individual to do their bit to make sure the environment is safe.

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The tag line for this movement is “let’s walk to freedom” and the aim is for everyone, not just women, to feel free to do so. The walks start at the June 16 Memorial Acre near the Morris Isaacson High School in Central Jabavu and go all the way to Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Mofolo Central.

“June 16 was the strike that changed the trajectory of freedom in South Africa and that’s where our walks start,” Mazwai says. “One of the people who were walking with us said: ‘Wow, this is now our fight for freedom.’ We’re fighting to be safe.”

She adds: “More people come to understand the value of safety when we walk. We get the opportunity to set community resolutions [which are similar to New Year’s resolutions but are for the betterment of the community] and to understand that if it’s safer, your property price is better. If it’s safer, there is more access to opportunity. Safety creates wealth.”

Funk It I’m Walking encourages participation from all genders, classes and differences. While the focus is Soweto for the next five years, the hope is that this kind of grassroots approach to living in harmony will inspire others to take up the model in other neighbourhoods.


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