Fellow Since 2002
Soweto Mountain of Hope
This profile was prepared when Mandla Mentoor was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
By transforming abandoned open spaces and unofficial dumps into ecologically healthy and aesthetically pleasing places, Mandla is breathing life into South Africa's urban environmental awareness movement and restoring economic viability and community pride. In Soweto, scarred by decades of political oppression, poverty, and environmental neglect, Mandla has demonstrated what is possible to the township's disaffected, hopeless residents. Working with youth, he has restored what was formerly a bastion of untold horrors of the apartheid regime. The "new" public space–now called the Soweto Mountain of Hope–is a picturesque, luscious green area, free of litter and crime. The physical transformation has inspired an equally dramatic social transformation: the space now serves as a hub of community activities and hosts sports events, festivals, and markets. Mandla's first successful restoration is central to his plan to focus urban communities across South Africa on similar projects in their own cities. By linking cities in restoration efforts, he is building the infrastructure to support environmental awareness and education efforts throughout South Africa and neighboring countries.