Grace Masuku

Traditionalist, environmentalist and community worker Grace Masuku received the 2012 Inyathelo Award for Lifetime Community Philanthropy.


Grace has become a living legend in South Africa and was named a National Living Treasure by the National Heritage Council in 2005. She has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the environment and the innovative use of local knowledge and wisdom to create sustainable and ecologically sensitive economic projects. Her Bakgatla ba Kgafela people were forcibly removed from their ancestral land in the Pilanesberg by the Apartheid government. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to preserve the values and knowledge of her people, including establishing the Mphebato Cultural Museum in Saulspoort in the North West province.

Mama Masuku has a profound understanding of medicinal and indigenous plants and she has become a giant in sustainable rural development. The 80-year-old still uses her pension to visit the numerous villages in the area to provide training and ideas for local businesses. Her first project, Letswanana, began 21 years ago, and continues to this day to yield herbs that are used to treat diseases. Her most public project, Podi-Boswa (meaning 'goat, our inheritance'), has provided more than 1 000 people with sustainable livelihoods by producing leather products from goat-hides.