Famous South African Activists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite South African Activists

 1 
Desmond Tutu
(First Black African Archbishop of Cape Town & Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

Desmond Tutu
4
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Died: December 26, 2021
Desmond Tutu is known for his anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa. The first black Archbishop of Cape Town, he has also been the Bishop of Johannesburg. His efforts to eradicate AIDS, poverty, anti-LGBT sentiments, and human rights violations earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 2 
Steve Biko
(Anti-apartheid Activist)

Steve Biko
4
Birthdate: December 18, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tarkastad, South Africa
Died: September 12, 1977

Civil rights activist Steve Biko, or the Father of Black Consciousness, is remembered for his work against apartheid in South Africa. He founded the Black Consciousness Movement while still a medical school student. He was banned by the pro-apartheid regime in 1973. He was beaten to death in custody.

 3 
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
(Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
6
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bizana, Eastern Cape
Died: April 2, 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had first met legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at a bus stop when she was barely 22. They ended up getting married the following year. Winnie’s journey was marred by bans and harassment by the South African government, but the determined social worker revolutionized South African politics.
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 4 

Miriam Makeba
3
Birthdate: March 4, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba was a South African singer, actress, songwriter, civil rights activist, and United Nations goodwill ambassador. One of the first African musicians to make an impact on the international stage, Makeba is credited with popularizing Afropop genres. She also advocated against apartheid through music and played a major role in the civil rights movement.

 5 
David Bale
(Entrepreneur)

David Bale
3
Birthdate: September 2, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: December 30, 2003

David Bale was an English entrepreneur and animal rights activist. He worked closely with The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which aims at protecting endangered mountain gorillas, and served as one of its board members. Apart from his work as an activist for animal rights and environmental causes, David Bale is also known as the father of actor Christian Bale.

 6 
Graça Machel
(First Lady of Mozambique (1975-1986), First Lady of South Africa (1998-1999))

Graça Machel
3
Birthdate: October 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gaza Province, Mozambique

Graça Machel is known for her association with Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and has been the country’s first education minister. She has also been married to both former Mozambican president Samora Machel and South African president Nelson Mandela. Through The Elders, she is devoted to working for women’s and children’s rights.

 7 
Walter Sisulu
(Activist)

Walter Sisulu
3
Birthdate: May 18, 1912
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ngcobo, South Africa
Died: May 5, 2003

Walter Sisulu was a South African activist who played an important role in the anti-apartheid movement. Counted among the most important members of the ANC, Sisulu served more than 25 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities. For his contribution to the success of the ANC, Sisulu was honored with the prestigious Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe in 1992.

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 8 
Keorapetse Kgositsile
(Poet, Journalist, Political activist)

Keorapetse Kgositsile
3
Birthdate: September 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: January 3, 2018

Keorapetse Kgositsile was a South African Tswana journalist, poet, and political activist. During the 1960s and 1970s, Kgositsile played an important role in the development of the African National Congress. Keorapetse Kgositsile helped bridge the gap between black poetry in the United States of America and African poetry. He was inaugurated as the nation's National Poet Laureate in 2006.

 9 
Nkosi Johnson
(Activist)

Nkosi Johnson
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1989
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Daveytown, South Africa
Died: June 1, 2001

 10 
Albertina Sisulu
(Political activist)

Albertina Sisulu
2
Birthdate: October 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tsomo, South Africa
Died: June 2, 2011

 11 
Ruth First
(Author, Politician, University teacher, Writer, Journalist, Martyr, Political activist)

Ruth First
2
Birthdate: May 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Johannesburg
Died: August 17, 1982

South African activist/journalist Ruth First is remembered for her relentless fight against apartheid. Born to Latvian immigrants and founders of the South African Communist Party, First was later tried for treason and detained. While working at a Mozambican university in exile, she was assassinated in a parcel bomb attack

 12 
Fatima Meer
(Writer)

Fatima Meer
2
Birthdate: August 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Died: March 12, 2010

 13 
Kumi Naidoo
(human rights activist)

Kumi Naidoo
2
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Durban

 14 
Denis Goldberg
(Social Activist)

Denis Goldberg
0
Birthdate: April 11, 1933
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa
Died: April 29, 2020

 15 

Roy Campbell
2
Birthdate: October 2, 1901
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Died: April 23, 1957

 16 
Allan Boesak
(Clergyman)

Allan Boesak
2
Birthdate: February 23, 1946
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kakamas, South Africa

Allan Boesak is a South African Dutch Reformed Church cleric and politician. He is also a prominent anti-apartheid activist. Along with Winnie Mandela and Beyers Naude, Boesak won the 1985 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. A liberation theologian, he has served as the president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. His career has been marred by many controversies. 

 17 

Dennis Brutus
2
Birthdate: November 28, 1924
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Harare, Zimbabwe
Died: December 26, 2009

 18 
Adelaide Tambo
(Political figure)

Adelaide Tambo
2
Birthdate: July 18, 1929
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vereeniging, South Africa
Died: January 31, 2007

Adelaide Tambo, also known as Mama Tambo, had decided to fight against police atrocities after witnessing her grandfather being falsely accused of engaging in riots. Initially a nurse, she grew up to be an anti-apartheid activist, founded various pan-African movements, and married African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo.

 19 
Steve Tshwete
(Politician)

Steve Tshwete
1
Birthdate: November 12, 1938
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Springs, South Africa
Died: April 26, 2002

In spite of being born into an impoverished working-class family, Steve Tshwete was given a decent education by his parents. The South African politician was an African National Congress member and had been imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities. He was also known as Mr Fixit for supporting non-racial sports rules.

 20 

Angelique Rockas
2
Birthdate: 1951 AD
Birthplace: Boksburg, South Africa

 21 
Raymond Mhlaba
(Politician, Activist)

Raymond Mhlaba
0
Birthdate: February 12, 1920
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fort Beaufort, South Africa
Died: February 20, 2005

 22 
Alex La Guma
(Novelist)

Alex La Guma
1
Birthdate: February 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa
Died: October 11, 1985

South African author Alex La Guma, best known for his works such as A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season’s End, was born into a family that was associated with the black liberation movement. He also served as the main representative of the African National Congress.

 23 

Solomon Mahlangu
1
Birthdate: July 10, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mamelodi, Pretoria, South Africa
Died: April 6, 1979

 24 
Vusumzi Make
(Civil rights activist)

Vusumzi Make
0
Birthdate: 1931 AD
Birthplace: Boksburg, South Africa
Died: April 15, 2006

 25 
Harry Gwala
(South African leader)

Harry Gwala
1
Birthdate: July 30, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Hanover, South Africa
Died: June 20, 1995

African National Congress and South African Communist Party leader Harry Gwala was popular as The Lion of the Midlands among his followers. Though sentenced to life imprisonment for his revolutionary activities, he was later released after his arms were paralyzed. He once used the Bible to teach communism.

 26 
Dullah Omar
(Lawyer)

Dullah Omar
1
Birthdate: May 26, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa
Died: March 13, 2004

 27 
Elsa Joubert
(Writer)

Elsa Joubert
1
Birthdate: October 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paarl, Cape Province, Union of South Africa
Died: June 14, 2020

 28 
Potlako Leballo
(Africanist who led the Pan Africanist Congress until 1979)

Potlako Leballo
0
Birthdate: December 19, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mafeteng, Lesotho
Died: December 31, 1986

 29 
Lungile Pepeta
(Cardiologist, Academic)

Lungile Pepeta
1
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: South African
Died: August 7, 2020

South African pediatric cardiologist and professor Lungile Pepeta is remembered for his life-long struggle to improve his country’s medical facilities and to create a medical school for doctors from rural areas. Part of the advisory committee of the government’s COVID-19 taskforce, he himself died of the virus later.

 30 
Ellen Kuzwayo
(Politician)

Ellen Kuzwayo
1
Birthdate: June 29, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Orange Free State, South Africa
Died: April 19, 2006

Politician, educator, and women’s rights activist Ellen Kuzwayo lost her family farm in Thaba Nchu, when the land was declared a whites-only area. She divorced her abusive husband and later related her ordeal in the CNA Award-winning book Call Me Woman. She had also been an African National Congress MP.

 31 
Victoria Chitepo
(Politician)

Victoria Chitepo
1
Birthdate: March 27, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dundee, South Africa
Died: April 8, 2016

Victoria Chitepo, better known as the wife of Zimbabwe African National Union leader Herbert Chitepo, is remembered for her fight for Black rights and her association with the National Democratic Party. She had also been a minister of tourism and telecommunications. In 2016, she was found dead in her home.

 32 
Mary Benson
(Activist)

Mary Benson
1
Birthdate: December 8, 1919
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa
Died: June 19, 2000

 33 

Clarence Mini
1
Birthdate: November 6, 1951
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: May 12, 2020

 34 
Oscar Mpetha
(South African political activist)

Oscar Mpetha
0
Birthdate: August 5, 1909
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Transkei, South Africa
Died: November 15, 1994

 35 
Percy Qoboza
(Journalist)

Percy Qoboza
1
Birthdate: January 17, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sophiatown, Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: January 17, 1988

 36 
Nico Smith
(Church Minister)

Nico Smith
1
Birthdate: 1929 AD
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: June 19, 2010

 37 
Colin Legum
(Journalist)

Colin Legum
0
Birthdate: January 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kestell, South Africa
Died: July 8, 2003

 38 
Thenjiwe Mtintso
(Activist)

Thenjiwe Mtintso
0
Birthdate: November 7, 1950
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Soweto, South Africa