Yoliswa Dwane, co-founder of Equal Education, has died
Yoliswa Dwane speaks to activists in 2010 at an Equal Education meeting. Photo: Gillian Benjamin (fair use)

Yoliswa Dwane, co-founder of Equal Education, died of cancer on Friday. She was 40.

Dwane grew up in the township of Dimbaza in King William’s Town. Committed to her own education, she overcame her disadvantages to graduate with a law degree from the University of Cape Town in 2007. In 2008 she co-founded Equal Education with Doron Isaacs and Zackie Achmat.

She was elected to two terms as Equal Education’s chairperson, serving from 2012 until 2018. Under her leadership the organisation flourished, running widely-acclaimed campaigns to improve school infrastructure and install libraries in township schools. Dwane helped grow an organisation that started with a handful of people in a room into a mass movement.

Dwane was a vital critical voice, and on occasion wrote for GroundUp. She deposed to the court case that ultimately secured the adoption of norms and standards for school infrastructure by the Minister of Education.


Dwane shunned the opportunity to do her articles and become a practising attorney. Instead, she chose to be an activist and consequently never earned a substantial salary. She lived a very modest lifestyle in Khayelitsha and her healthcare was primarily managed in the public sector.

Upon her death Achmat wrote: “Her last few years were difficult in many different ways. She was steel in the face of injustice.”

Dwane’s mother, Boniswa Dwane (as reported to GroundUp via a relative), said that she was still shocked. She said that she raised a beautiful young lady who was a leader and a good example. “We loved her. She should rest now and she’ll forever be in our hearts.”

Noncedo Madubedube, General Secretary of Equal Education, told GroundUp: “She made a huge impact on the lives of many equalisers and the leaders of the organisation. She was critical and incisive, her office was often the place for long discussion, debate and laughter at Equal Education.”

Yoliswa Dwane, 25 December 1981 to 21 October 2022, is survived by her mother Boniswa Dwane.

Yoliswa Dwane, co-founder of Equal Education, has died
Yoliswa Dwane (far right) in 2008 with Equal Education co-founder Doron Isaacs and two early recruits to the organisation, Joey Hasson and Lumkile Zani. Photo Supplied

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