Koketso Moeti founder of Amandla.mobi. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Financial Mail
Koketso Moeti founder of Amandla.mobi. Picture: Freddy Mavunda/Financial Mail

A quarter of a million people have thrown their weight behind at least one of Koketso Moeti’s campaigns. Her civil-engagement platform, amandla.mobi, has even caught the eye of some heavyweights in the global world order.

In April, Moeti became the first South African to be named an Obama Fellow.

She was one of just 20 individuals — from more than 20,000 applicants — selected by the former US president’s foundation for the inaugural edition of its fellowship programme.

And in July, Moeti was named the grand prize winner of the Waislitz Global Citizen Award — an annual cash prize of $100,000 awarded in recognition of an individual’s efforts to stamp out extreme poverty.

Amandla.mobi aims to rally people around important causes, mainly those that affect low-income black women — a demographic that is disproportionately affected by injustice, Moeti tells the FM.

She founded amandla.mobi in 2014 when she decided a new approach was needed to mobilise activists across the country.

"I am a woman, I am black, I am from a low-income background — all things which led me to see [what effect] the difficulties of co-ordinating actions, the barriers of geographic location, language and so much more have on attempts to organise," she says. At the same time, she saw how sustained collective action could overcome those barriers and "build movements and shift things".

So it makes perfect sense that her "tool of choice" is the mobile device, which allows people to pool their voices regardless of their location or language.

Amandla.mobi caters to basic handsets — activists can join a campaign via WhatsApp, USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) messaging, SMS or through the web.

According to Moeti, SA has always had an active citizenry — reflected in the number of protests and direct engagements with the state and employers. And technology has "added to the tools available for people to use to advance their struggles".

Thanks to the platform’s accessibility, 226,815 people have "taken action" in the organisation’s campaigns, which have targeted VAT, failures within social security agencies and violence within the taxi industry, among many other issues.

One campaign that amandla.mobi is running is aimed at SA’s high data costs. Network operators, government, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) and the Competition Commission are in Moeti’s crosshairs.

Amandla.mobi participated in the public hearings that ultimately gave rise to new rules governing the expiry of data bundles and other consumer-protection measures.

"Mobilising people on the different aspects of the [Icasa] campaign involved just over 700 amandla.mobi members volunteering to do door-to-door [campaigning] to get people supporting our submission and sending their own."

Thanks to those efforts, more than 30,000 people supported amandla.mobi’s submissions to the regulator, and more than 1,000 others sent in their own submissions, she says.

"During the oral submission process we had hundreds of voice notes and e-mails which were sent to Icasa from people who could not attend the hearings themselves, and people also donated to get people there."

A separate process by the Competition Commission is still in the works.

The oral hearing process is yet to commence, but Moeti says amandla.mobi’s submission to the competition authority is supported by more than 44,000 people.

Other wins under the organisation’s belt include getting the Miners Shot Down documentary about the Marikana massacre broadcast on free-to-air TV, and assisting students whose qualifications were withheld because the National Student Financial Aid Scheme had not paid their fees.

Amandla.mobi relies largely on donations.