Local Heroes 2023: Petros Majola, a champion for the vulnerable

He is not afraid to upset anyone in his quest for justice, nor is he scared to take on authority or voice his opinion when he feels an injustice has been done.

Firebrand community activist, civil rights crusader and children’s rights champion Petros Majola has dedicated his life to fighting for vulnerable groups whose rights are violated.

Majola has stepped on many toes and ruffled many feathers — all in the name of ensuring human dignity is upheld and justice served.

In July 2008, he established the Khula Community Development Project, a children’s rights, victim empowerment and legal support centre.

Majola needs no introduction to the people of the Eastern Cape — his activism has made him known even beyond the province.

Every day, the father of three responds to issues that dehumanise people, especially children.

“It’s not easy,” he said.

“Every month, we attend to no fewer  than 25 cases of gender-based violence, 15 rape cases, two of human trafficking, about four cases of forced marriage or ukuthwala, and 50 complaints from schools and pupils.

“These cases include — but are not limited to — corporal punishment, unlawful expulsion, and sexual relationships between pupils and teachers.

“And we attend to at least 40 scholar transport-related cases.”

They also deal with complaints about unlawful circumcision of young boys and bullying.

Majola is passionate about children’s rights.

They need us and we must invest a lot of our time in creating a conducive environment for them, and work with families as they spend most of the time at home

“I believe children are most vulnerable because they cannot stand up and talk for themselves.

“They need us and we must invest a lot of our time in creating a conducive environment for them, and work with families as they spend most of the time at home,” he said.

“Services are most needed in rural areas because of a lack of resources.”

Majola works with a team of only seven people, but the organisation has volunteers across the province.

Because of his work exposing many shenanigans, some people love to hate Majola or label him as anti-government.

In contrast, government leaders applaud his work.

He has received special awards from the premier’s office and social development department for his contribution to community building and quest for justice.

Because the bulk of his work affects the departments of education, social development, and health as well as the SAPS, “a platform for sharing has been created and partnerships strengthened by the relevant MECs and HODs so that we all work together to make a difference”.

He says  every child has the right to a good  education and security at school.

Majola was born and raised in Tuku B village in Peddie.

His organisation was established in 2008 and expanded its work when it saw a rise in cases of gender-based violence and femicide.

The organisation has taken the government to court to force it to honour its constitutional obligations.

“With the assistance of the Legal Resources Centre, we managed to secure scholar transport for hundreds of pupils in the province and intervened with positive results in the delivery of learning and teaching support material.

“We rescued young girls forced into marrying older men under the customary practice of ukuthwala.

“We work with relevant police units and [get] suspects arrested for abduction, human trafficking, rape, and other crimes.”

One of the worst cases Majola came across was  the 2022 Good Friday attack on a 15-year-old eMaXesibeni girl.

“She was raped, and her eyes were gouged out.

“The brutal murder of Fort Hare law student Nosicelo Mtebeni, who was chopped into pieces, and Yamkela Seplan, the 14-year-old Qumbu girl who developed a huge cancerous lump on the arm until she died, give me sleepless nights,” he said.

Majola says he is pained by the sight of young children walking long distances to school, crossing rivers and walking through forests.

He  has persuaded  a number of stakeholders including civil society organisations and the government, to intervene in issues.

“We all need each other,” he said.

“Reminding each sector of our constitutional obligations cannot make us enemies.

“We are not enemies of the government or anyone.”

Majola’s motto is “All of us are equal before God and the law.”

Nkosi Minenkulu Joyi, a member of the National House of Traditional & Khoi-San Leaders, said he believed Majola fought above his weight on issues of human rights and community development.”

“He is passionate about what he does, but remains humble. Majola is a rare breed.

“Without his interventions, many cases of brutality towards children would have not gone public and seen justice served.

“This is a man who should be honoured and his work celebrated while he is still alive.”