Youth Activism

Arising from a partnership with


Gun Free SA has partnered with youth activists to help make their communities of Alexandra, Atlantis and KwaZakhele/Zwide safer, more secure and free from gun violence.

Youth activists work mainly with schools in their community. They use Gun Free SA’s Toolkit for Safer Communities to engage learners, educators and the broader school community on issues related to gun violence prevention.

They are also involved in a range of community outreach and engagement activities.


Township in Gauteng, situated 13 kilometres north east of Johannesburg.

Geographical size: 7 km2

Population: Total: 215,000. Male = 52% ; Female = 48%. Black African = 99%; Coloured = 0.5%, Other = 0.5%. Number of children (0-17 years): 56,000 (31%).

Education: Number of primary schools: 9. Number of high schools: 7. Education level of population: None = 3%; Some primary = 9%; Primary = 4%; Some secondary = 39%; Matric = 39%; Higher education: 6%.

Employment: Unemployment rate: Estimated at 60% and described as “disturbingly high”.

Crime (2018-19):

  • Murder: 87
  • Attempted murder: 71
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances: 812
  • Sexual offences: 144

Perceptions of safety: Alex scored the lowest of eight townships that were surveyed using the Urban Insecurity Index; this rates residents’ levels of insecurity on a range of measures such as employment status, food security, health, education, housing, overcrowding, access to services and social support.

Gun violence in Alexandra

A number of community mapping of gun violence exercises have been done with Alex residents, which give information on the perpetrator, victim/survivor, the relationship between the two and the weapon used. As shown in the graphs below:

  • Perpetrators: The vast majority are young black men.
  • Victims: Men and women are equally likely to be shot. The majority of victims/survivors are young, black and sober.
  • Circumstances: The majority of incidents are crimes e.g. robberies or hi-jackings. 54% involve strangers and 46% involve people who know one another, of these 40% are friends and family.

Firearm: The overwhelming majority of guns used in shootings are handguns (revolvers and pistols)


Community Outreach

Using radio to fight gun crime

Every week a group of Alex teenagers crowd into a radio studio to play hip-hop and discuss neighbourhood gun crime for their community radio show, Bigger Than Life, on Alex FM (89.1 FM). Their work has been documented by The Guardian.


 Using sport to silence the guns

In 2018 and 2019, Gun Free South Africa and the Bigger Than Life team hosted a sports day for the youth of Alex:



City on the West Coast of South Africa about one hour’s drive from Cape Town.

Geographical size: 200 km2 (includes Atlantis (28 km2) and surrounds)

Population: Total: 43,208. Male = 49%; Female = 51%. Coloured = 78%; Black African = 18%; White = 2%; Other = 2%. Number of children (0-17 years): 14,517 (34%).

Education: Number of primary schools: 9. Number of high schools: 4. Number of tertiary institutions of learning: 1 FET college. 85% of school aged children are in school. Education level of population: None = 2%; Some primary = 11%; Primary = 7%; Some secondary = 47%; Matric = 30%; Higher education = 1%.

Employment: Unemployment rate: 54%. Main source of employment: Mostly factories.

Alcohol prevalence: 3 official liquor stores, 1 pub, 2 clubs, unsure how many shebeens – most of them don’t have licences, but more or less 50.

Crime (2018-19):

  • Murder: 55
  • Attempted murder: 83
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances: 183
  • Sexual offences: 72

Youth activist: Monique Hansen

Monique was a young reporter for the Children’s Radio Foundation for 5 years, graduating in 2015. In 2018, there was talk of closing the project down in Atlantis, but knowing the opportunities it offered young people in the community, Monique decided take the place of her previous mentor and facilitate the programme. is a live radio show, where young reporters express their views and talk about issues that many in the community are afraid to talk about, but which affect the youth – the next generation.

In 2017, Gun Free SA partnered with CRF to make local communities safer. Monique saw this as a huge opportunity to make people aware of the risks of gun violence and start joining hands to create a better community for all.

“The topic of gun violence is taboo in my community. It’s almost as though it has become the new norm, rather than a problem to be solved. It took my team and me four years to just get people to start talking about gun violence. It was hard to get adults to listen to young people. They felt we didn’t have the necessary knowledge and experience to have an opinion. While we were ready to imagine a world where young people were the leaders.”

Read more on Monique’s story here:

Gun violence in Atlantis

Community mapping of gun violence in Atlantis with community members gives information on the perpetrator, victim/survivor, the relationship between the two and the weapon used. As shown in the graphs below:

  • Perpetrators: The vast majority are young coloured men.
  • Victims: While victims are a mix of gender, age and race, young coloured men make up a high proportion of victims.
  • Circumstances: Although the majority of incidents are crimes, they occur between people who know one another: 41% are friends and family and 36% are acquaintances.
  • Firearms: Over two-thirds of firearms used are believed to be unlicensed.

Community Outreach

Shooting for the stars

The idea behind shooting for the stars was getting the message across that we must aim for our goals and dreams instead of aiming a gun. Inspired by the Cameron Boyce Foundation’s Wielding Peace campaign, Monique and her team went to primary schools and photographed children using props to shoot for the stars and visualise a future without gun violence. Instead of just talking and giving information on guns and gun violence that these youngsters would probably forget, the children did something that they will forever keep in their minds, and share wherever they are.


Gun Free Valentine

In partnership with the International Action Network on Small Arms, on Valentine’s Day Monique and her team raised awareness of how a dangerous a gun in the home is for women by handing out roses with the tagline guns don’t belong in relationships.

KwaZakhele and Zwide

KwaZakhele and Zwide are part of the 36 km2 Ibhayi townships near Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Geographical size: 12 km2

Population: Total 124,000.

Education: Number of primary schools: 21. Number of high schools: 17. Number of tertiary institutions of learning: 0.

Alcohol prevalence: Approximately 17 pubs, bars, taverns, shebeens and liquor stores.

Unemployment rate: 30%.

Crime rate (2018-19):

  • Murder: 109
  • Attempted murder: 111
  • Robbery with aggravating circumstances: 790
  • Sexual offences: 121

Youth activist: Thembela Booi

Thembela is a 22-year-old award-winning media practitioner. Born in King William’s Town, his family moved to Port Elizabeth in search of better opportunities. He currently volunteers as a producer and presenter at Nkqubela FM, a Port Elizabeth-based community radio station and is also a facilitator at the Children’s Radio Foundation, where he works with the Live Wire team.

As a young man growing up on the streets of KwaZakhele, Thembela believes that every young person has the potential to change their community to be a safer place and that each young person has the power to make their future bright.

“Working with Gun Free SA gives me the opportunity to work with young, promising leaders to change the lives of the people living in my community and work hand in hand with my community in ensuring that we live in a gun free environment.”

Gun violence in KwaZakhele and Zwide

Community mapping of gun violence in KwaZakhele and Zwide with community members gives information on the perpetrator, victim/survivor, and the weapon used.

As shown in the graphs below:

  • Perpetrators: The vast majority are young men
  • Victims: The majority of victims/survivors are men

Firearms: The majority of guns used in shootings are handguns (revolvers and pistols)


Community Outreach

Working with schools

Thembela has been working with 4 schools in KwaZakhele and Zwide, including Funimfundo, Ntyatyambo and W.B.Tshume primary schools and Masibambane secondary; running workshops and engaging learners on issues of violence, safety and community building and promoting the establishment of Gun Free Zones as safe spaces for learning and teaching.


Don’t groom for violence

In the lead up to Christmas and in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice, Thembela and his team urged parents and caregivers to not groom children for violence by supporting a toy gun free festive season.


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