In assessing her busy last few years, Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela highlights the self-assurance that has propelled her presence in student politics and the fight for social justice: “The biggest mistake, which I have learned a great deal from, is to never despise my youth and think that I am not capable because I am too young. Downplaying your capabilities denies you and those around you the best of you.”
Nkasela has shown herself to be significantly capable, elected as #UniteBehind’s inaugural Organising Secretariat at 18 years old, managing a civil society coalition of 20 organisations behind causes as diverse as state capture, fixing the country’s dysfunctional train system, safety and policing, and seeking housing solutions.
As for motivations, Nkasela speaks of how her traumas have driven her to fight, saying: “I am a four-time sexual assault survivor. I still had it in me to lead a protest against GBV and femicide of more than 20 000 students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).”
“I overcame my fear of being triggered and decided to take the baton and lead. I was able to put my pain and trauma aside because of the love I have for women and my hunger to see their liberation.”
She is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science in Biomedical Sciences at CPUT, and sees this as being part of her activism: “The impact that I want to see in South Africa’s future through my work is a safer South Africa for queer folk, black women and black bodies. I hope to see justice being served and I hope to see the lives and freedoms of black people in our country advanced.”