Project Description

Lukhona Mnguni

Lukhona Mnguni Democracy Fellow OSF-SA 25 years in South Africa1000 Rural Voices

Lukhona holds a Bachelor of Community and Development Studies degree (cum laude) and an honours degree in Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies (cum laude), both from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Mnguni obtained a Master of Science degree in Africa and International Development from the University of Edinburgh in November 2015 after having received the Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue his studies. He currently serves as a PhD intern researcher at the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He believes in the promotion of dialogue as a tool to foster inclusive and sustainable solutions to development.

Through various forms of writing and commenting in South Africa’s mainstream media, he contributes significantly to the national discourse on a range of issues from politics to sport to research-oriented subjects. Lukhona is committed to education and seeing every child in South Africa having a fair chance to be educated to high standards of quality, irrespective of where they are born.

He has served the country in various ways, including presenting to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating the feasibility of free higher education as well as being a contributing political analyst on eNCA, SABC news, 702 Radio, and many other platforms where he provides analysis of South Africa’s important news headlines on a regular basis. For this dedicated work in and outside his workplace, Mnguni was awarded the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Community Engagement Award during the College of Humanities’ Staff Excellence Awards, 2016. He continues to hold public seminars and give talks on key topics that focus on the development of South Africa within the context of the African continent and the world at large.


When elections approach, a wide range of issues is placed on the public agenda. However, there is a section of the South African population that is often characterised as ‘the voiceless’, largely found in peri-urban and rural areas. In this instance, some sections of society appoint themselves as spokespersons of these people deemed ‘voiceless’. The reality is that no-one is voiceless, but the spaces (often accessed and managed by the rich and the middle class) that make for visible and repeated voices in our society marginalise peri-urban and rural South Africans.

This project argues that rural communities remain among the most forgotten in the democratic dispensation. Geographically, they are significantly displaced from the core of decision-making, policy formulation, and discourse on the developmental agenda of our country. There are two key narratives in the current thinking about rural areas in general and KwaZulu-Natal rural areas in particular that this project challenges by arguing that rural people have a voice – they are not voiceless. Society needs to give them a voice in order to hear what their ideas are on the course of development that should be pursued as rural development. This is important because rural spaces are heterogeneous. The project also seeks to explore how KwaZulu-Natal has been an important electoral democracy success in South Africa. More often than not, the province is seen as a hive of violence and intolerant politics, yet there is a hidden story about its political culture and change.