Langa Mtshali
Anil Naidoo
Ntokozo Zungu
Publication Date




This is a 39-page survey conducted on using mobile phones for reporting human rights violations in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. The survey was done as part of the UmNyango Project that uses short message service (SMS) and pod-casting technology to promote and protect human rights of rural communities in KwaZulu Natal.


Executive summary

“The UmNyango Project, is an initiative of Fahamu and supported by its project partners, Centre for Public Participation , Community Law and Rural Development Centre, Domestic Violence Assistance Project, Indiba-Africa Development Alliance, the Participatory Development Initiative and the Rural Women's Movement, and its donor partner HIVOS  The UmNyango Project seeks to use SMS and pod-casting technology to promote and protect the human rights of 5 rural communities in KwaZulu Natal by the provision of access to relevant information and the establishment of a mechanism to report human rights violations (both in IsiZulu) on the following:


  • domestic violence;
  • women’s exclusion from access and control of land;
  • participation in government;
  • conflict; and
  • access to justice.


In anticipation of this, a survey was conducted in 5 rural areas in KwaZulu Natal, to investigate the prevalence of human rights violations vis-à-vis the above focus areas; IsiZulu literacy levels; access to mobile phones; ability to use SMS facilities on these phones; mobile phone network coverage; media consumption and finally to gauge the willingness of communities to participate in the UmNyango Project. 66 female and 44 male respondents were interviewed.


The survey found that there is an 80% IsiZulu literacy level. 83% of respondents owned mobile phones and 80% are able to send and retrieve basic text messages. The network coverage is also healthy and reliable in the target communities. 84% used the pre-paid method of accessing airtime.


76% used their mobile phones to make voice calls to follow-up on social-welfare, water and sanitation, and electricity applications, as well as to enquire about income generating opportunities. The SMS facility was mostly used for personal purposes.


Respondents do not use the SMS facility to access information on development initiatives nor on human rights. However, they would welcome any initiative that could allow them this opportunity, such as with the UmNyango Project.


99% would like to receive SMS headlines from Pambazuka News (an award wining weekly electronic newsletter on social justice in Africa produced by Fahamu and accessed via Email and the Internet). Similarly, 99% would like to access Pambazuka News as podcasts that could be downloaded from the Fahamu website and ‘broadcasted’ at local advice offices or community and commercial radio stations.


30% had witnessed domestic violence in varying degrees of incidence. Most incidences were not reported and all respondents were of the opinion that the UmNyango Project could ameliorate the incidence of domestic violence through the dissemination of information and allowing individuals to report these and to seek appropriate support. Of all the respondents interviewed, none indicated that they were actual victims of domestic violence. We feel that this is not a true reflection of the reality and that respondents deliberately denied being victims, as they were embarrassed and/or fearful of intimidation, especially seeing that the interviews were conducted in the respondents’ households. Due to financial constraints, we were unable to invite respondents to a neutral venue to conduct the interviews.


33% of respondents (all women) reported that they had been excluded from accessing and/or the control of land due to them. Respondents felt that the UmNyango Project could assist in this lack of access through awareness raising via the SMS gateway and pod-casting and also through education and training.


54% reported that they do not participate in governance in their communities due to the inaccessibility of relevant information, inaccessible local councillors and the cost of telephonic communications. In addition, civil society organisations were either weak or non-existent and therefore community members lack the skills for advocacy, lobbying and campaigning. 54% had experienced conflict in their communities particularly around stock theft, land and politics and 86% felt that the UmNyango Project provides a good opportunity for conflict resolution.


While the majority of respondents were happy with the service of the legal advice offices with ‘ratings of good’ 10%, 28% rating them as “very good” and 40% rating the offices as “excellent”, 99% felt that the SMS facility would greatly enhance the service the advice offices provided, particularly in light of physical access to such offices.


100% indicated a willingness to participate in the UmNyango Project.”


Contact the authors for the full document.


Email from Anil Naidoo to Soul Beat Africa on June 16 2007.