After completing school in Port Shepstone, Muhammed travelled to Jerusalem to work for a Palestinian Christian organization called Sabeel. On his return, Desai co-founded the Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee.
Responding to the BDS call and realizing the importance for BDS to take ground in South Africa, in 2010, Desai co-founded and is currently the full time coordinator of BDS South Africa, one of the leading groups in South Africa actively working on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.
Desai has a BA majoring in Law and International relations from Wits University. In 2014 Desai was listed as one of the top 200 young South Africans by the Mail&Guardian Newspaper.
Kwara Kekana hails from Lebowakgomo in the Limpopo Province. Kekana went on to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of Pretoria in Economics. During her time there she was active in student politics and led SASCO as a branch secretary and chairperson at the University of Pretoria. She also served in the Regional Executive Committee of SASCO as a Deputy Chairperson of Tshwane Region.
In 2011 Kekana joined the Palestinian solidarity organisation BDS SA (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa) and is the current National Spokesperson and Deputy Coordinator. Kekana has a certificate in mediation, conflict resolution and diplomacy issued by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation through the Diplomatic Academy in 2015.
Kekana is enthusiastic about politics and activism with a view to promoting a more just society. She is currently studying towards her second degree in Industrial Sociology and Development studies.
Chairperson of the Board
Professor Farid Esack is a South African Muslim liberation theologian and Professor in the Study of Islam at the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg. He studied in Pakistan, the UK and Germany and is the author of numerous books on Islam including Qur’an, Liberation and Pluralism and with Sarah Chiddy, the co-editor of Islam, HIV & AIDS –Between Scorn Pity & Justice. He has published on Islam, Gender, Liberation Theology, Interfaith Relations, and Qur’anic Hermeneutics.
Esack, a native of Cape Town, is a political activist and was a part of the South African liberation struggle against apartheid and the United Democratic Front (UDF). Esack continues to maintain a consistent commitment to activist work both locally and internationally particularly in respect of the Palestinian liberation struggle.
Esack served as a Commissioner for Gender Equality in South African and has taught at the Universities of Western Cape, Hamburg, the College of William & Mary, Union Theological Seminary (NY), Xavier University in Cincinnati and Harvard University. Other than the gym, Pakistani food, travelling (alas, nearly always for work) and good company, life is pretty much about academic work and activist commitments – all of which are great fun.
Duduzile Mahlangu-Masango has always had an interest in human rights. She worked for the South African Councel of Churches (SACC) at its justice and reconciliation desk analysing TRC reports as well as a project coordinator for an HIV / AIDS project at the Lutheran Church which dealt with the acceptance of HIV positive people. She also spent six months in the Democratic Republic of Congo with victims of sexual abuse and assisting the women with their appeals to the local law office.
Mahlangu-Masango currently is the coordinator of the Israel-Palestine programme at the World Council of Churces since worked for the World Council Churches in SA, working as a coordinator of the Israel-Palestine programme. She is also the proprietor of her own catering company.
Sheila Barsel has been a civil society and community activist throughout her active years, particularly focusing on issues of gender, health and Palestine solidarity.Barsel has previously served as General Secretary of the National Students Organisation and as a researcher at the National Education and Health Workers Union(NEHAWU). She is currently working as an advisor in the Office of the Deputy Speaker at the South African Parliament. Sheila also currently serves on the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SACP where she is responsible for Research and Policy.
Barsel has previously served on the Department of Health’s Ministerial Advisory Committee and has also been appointed by South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training to serve on the council of the University of Cape Town.
In 2002 Barsel, who is of Jewish origin, was involved in the establishment of “Not in my Name” – a group of Jewish South Africans who publicly declared that South African mainstream Jewish structures did not speak on their behalf on the issue of Palestine/Israel. Sheila is also a member of the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP). Sheila has lived in Cape Town since 1975 and currently lives with her long-time partner and 2 cats (Lakshmi and Ishtar).
Mr Hargreaves Tisetso Magama, a political activist since the early years of his life, has always had an active, dynamic, and often rewarding experience in the political sphere. Magama was involved student politics during the apartheid period and was the co-founder of the Upington Students Congress (USCO) (1986) and the Deputy Chairperson of SAYCO (1987-90). He was also the co-ordinator of the Release Mandela Campaign (1988-89) and held numerous positions such as Chairperson of COSAS Upington Region (1990-91), Provincial Education Secretary of COSAS, Northern Cape (1990-1992) and served on various provisional ANC structures after its unbanning. He held the position of ANC Regional Secretary – Siyanda region (1995-1998).
Magama became a Councillor in 1994 where he served in various capacities namely Deputy Chairperson of the Executive Committee Chairperson of the RDP Standing Committee and Member of the HR Committee where he co-founded the Upington Masakhane Awards. In 2000, he also co-founded the Employment and Economic Empowerment Foundation, a community based organisation which initiated and managed poverty alleviation projects in Upington.
In 2009 Magama was appointed as a Member of Parliament and served on the Portfolio Committees on Public Works and International Relations and Cooperation respectively, becoming the Chairperson of the latter until 2014.
Bram Hanekom has several years of experience in the civil society and NGO sector. In addition to his role as an activist for Palestine, he has established himself as an activist for refugee rights, farm workers and youth. He serves on the board of several NGOs and was the director of the human rights organisation PASSOP for several years.
Hanekom has worked as a coordinator organising farm workers and has experience organising workers in various other sectors, particularly from the immigrant community. He was the recipient of the Inyathelo Youth in Philanthropy Award, an Oxfam scholarship (in humanitarian assistance) and was selected as one of Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Youth. He has also been actively involved in solidarity organizations campaigning for Cuba and human rights in Swaziland. His views, much like most in the BDS movement, have been largely influenced by his life experience as a member of a family which fought against apartheid in South Africa.