Self employment through the power of cooperatives in rural areas, small towns and townships

Unemployed?-2Hi everyone,

Are you residing in a rural area, small dorpie or township and unemployed? Are you willing to take on opportunities for self employment, using the resources available in your community? If so, please find attached blueprint we created to give you a few ideas.

Please send us an email at if you’d like us to assist.

Here is the attachment: Blueprint for the development of Cooperatives SA


A new vision for South Africa: My backstory, James Truter


Picture: My grandparents Mme’ Keadimilwe and George ‘Tolla’ Truter.
I was born in 1981 in a modest home in a small village called Bakerville in the North West province of South Africa. This is also where I spent the first six years of my life with my grandmother.
My grandmother, Keadimilwe or Mme’ Keadimilwe as she was known was the centre of my universe. She was my rock, my shield and my anchor and thanks to her I had the most wonderful childhood. Though a subsistence farmer, she could also make butter, jams, preserved foods, cured meats and numerous other goodies which she sold to other villagers and workers at the nearby diamond mines.
As the only grandchild living with her, I accompanied her all over the village and sometimes town, some 20km away. And so I became aware of the injustices meted out to her and others like her. My grandmother had a sweet tooth, one of the ‘bad’ traits I’ve inherited, and once a month we would visit the Diamond Bakery in town to buy jam tarts, milk tarts and lots of biscuits. Unlike white patrons, she was not allowed inside the bakery, she had to make purchases through a small window, in the passage between the bakery and the neighboring building.
I remember an incident (around 1986) where the apartheid police decided to raid our little village. I am not sure if they were looking for a particular individual or whether it was simply a tact to terrorise the community. This unexpected incident and brazen display of brute force quickly spread terror through the village. Every house was raided by intimidating armed white policemen. This incident traumatised my grandmother and as a 5 year old I had to witness it. I had never seen my grandmother so weak, terrified and broken before. Today I am still haunted by this scene.
Village life in itself was tough but it was certainly made tougher by an unjust oppressive apartheid regime. My grandmother passed away in 1990, a few months after Mr Mandela was released from prison, sadly never having experienced political or economic freedom and never having reached her full potential. Born in 1914, her life was doomed from the start. Though enterprising, the apartheid system were never to nurture her abilities and talents.
My backstory is that of millions of black South Africans.
Sadly, though apartheid thawed in the early 90’s, millions of people are still devastated by its consequences. The black majority still suffer in terms of access to decent education, economic opportunities, infrastructure and meaningful participation in the economy. The economy is still concentrated in the hands of a few extractive capitalists; think banking, funeral care, insurance, supermarket chains, healthcare…the list is endless and until black South Africans co-own major sectors of the economy, grave socio-economic conditions will persist.
To deal with the huge socio-economic challenges require a paradigm shift and an economic model geared towards socio-economic development. The solution to onboarding millions of black South Africans to own portions of the economy is the cooperative. Millions of people in rural areas, townships and peri-urban areas must organize themselves into various cooperatives spanning agricultural-, producer-, retail-, insurance-, property- and banking.
Every community in this country must as a minimum have a cooperative food store, cooperative funeral care and a cooperative bank to keep money circulating in the community, create jobs and new entrepreneurial opportunities.
My book ‘A new vision for South Africa’ reveals the cooperative as a weapon to overthrow South Africa’s extractive capitalist system. Using the UK based Co-operative Group as a template, this book shows how cooperatives are powerful forms of organizations that can radically transform South Africa’s economy for greater equality. Whether the goal is to lift 12 million blacks out of poverty, break the ever-present ‘monopoly capital’, or create new sustainable jobs, the cooperative is the only proven form of organization that can save South Africa right now. All South Africans are called upon to join forces and build a new national cooperative economy that will yield fruit for all our nation’s people.
Get a copy today from your nearest African Flavour Books or email


Cover: A new vision for South Africa.

South Africa is ready for healthcare cooperatives to radically reduce the cost of healthcare

SA needs affordable private healthcare (2)South Africans are worried about debilitating medical aid costs. Many South Africans don’t trust the public healthcare system and are forced to use expensive private healthcare. South Africans have been squeezed for so long that they feel mostly powerless. The future unfortunately holds no promise. There is no indication that someone is going to save us from the healthcare nightmare.

What if we united to create a medical care approach that is more affordable, sustainable and less burdensome? What if we designed a system that can benefit us as well as practitioners and service providers? What if we united beyond colour lines to bring the current exploitative healthcare system to its knees, replacing it with a more just cooperative owned system?

Healthcare cooperatives are popular across the world. In a healthcare cooperative, consumers and healthcare practitioners co-own the system (hospitals, laboratories and ambulances), share the costs but also share in the profits. A cooperative healthcare model is a win-win model for its members and society. The cooperative healthcare model followed in Brazil offers a fascinating insight into what is possible when the just arise to create new models.

South Africans will be surprised to learn that Brazil’s largest private healthcare provider is a cooperative. This healthcare cooperative, Unimed, was founded in 1967 by a man of great vision, Dr Edmundo Castilho. This gynaecologist was so disillusioned by the commodification of Brazil’s healthcare system that he sought an alternative to the capital-based health plans. Together with 22 other doctors, he started the first healthcare cooperative; this cooperative (a big innovation at the time) was based on principles of professional excellence and fairness. Over the years Unimed has grown to comprise a network of 360 cooperatives and they own around 100 hospitals, 54 laboratories and 456 ambulances. They have a further 3 033 associated hospitals in their network and their 110 000 doctors serve a total of 19 million patients.

Dr Edmundo Castilho is a shining example of what is possible when the just arise to fight an unjust system. Today, Unimed is still leading the way with quality and affordable healthcare.

With this article, the middle class and all the role-players in the healthcare ecosystem are being challenged to take up the urgent call to make healthcare more affordable for South Africans. An appeal is made to those who have innovative ideas that could bring about a more equitable healthcare system (including solutions to dramatically reduce medical aid fees) to share their ideas on public platforms. Many hardworking tax paying South Africans are looking forward to either free/reduced medical care at good public hospitals, a far lower premium at private hospitals or a hybrid solution where ordinary consumers can share the costs in a government-private-consumer partnership.

Lasting solutions centred on affordability, equality and sustainability can only come from having a multitude of healthcare cooperatives in South Africa. We need South Africa’s own Dr Edmundo Castilho to rise up and lead the charge; the harvest is ready.

Please share this post widely and email us at to contribute to discussions on creating new cooperative healthcare models in the country.

(Excerpt from: A new vision for South Africa by James Truter.)

Walking through the DOOR…

Thank you for the reminder that life is actually beautiful and that every day is an opportunity to learn…

Living Life

Do we ever think about the big role walking through the door plays in our lives? Every morning we walk out to walk about the earth fulfilling our purpose and living out our lives and at the end of the day we come back to rest in our homes for those who are blessed with a place called home. Do we ever stop to think about what it means to walk through that same door every sunrise?

A door has been used to symbolize an opportunity, a closed door represents a closed opportunity or dream. Why is this so? The sheer panic that one gets when they lose the key to open the door is enough to drive one crazy, if you lock yourself out, you get worried about what the door has shut in, when you lock yourself in, you get worried about the opportunities you are missing outside.

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The road less travelled (by millenials)…

It is often said that millenials (the cohort born between 1980 and 1995) are not willing to start at the bottom and help themselves. This article hopes to dispel this myth.

Outside Soshanguve, a large township north of Pretoria, is a very modest market comprising fewer than ten stands and traders. They mostly sell eggs, live chickens, goats and sheep to the public at the busy intersection of Tswaing and Rooiwal. We (TWH Cooperators) had the privilege of spending the morning at the market to get to know some of the informal traders and their stories in a bid to learn more about this sector which contributes 29% to South Africa’s GDP.

We spoke to one of the traders, a young woman called Gadifele Mokone, to find out how she ended up trading. Gadifele, initially reluctant to be interviewed, consented after we explained that her story could inspire thousands of unemployed youth. What makes Gadifele’s story worth telling is that she, like many others in South Africa, battled for years to find a job. Though she successfully completed high school and submitted her CV to countless employers, she never could get a lucky break. Employment for her, as for many young South Africans, remained elusive. Fed up and desperate, she eventually decided to embark on a journey of self-employment.

With a small loan from her grandmother, she bought eggs from the Tshwane market to resell at the informal Soshanguve market. She found this to be quite profitable and to further increase her income she decided to sell live chickens. Over the two years she managed to sustain not only herself, but her entire family and she hasn’t looked back.

Gadifele has big ambitions for her life. She plans on formalising her business to a point where it is not only viable to look after her family; but to expand and create more jobs for others.

Many might see Gadifele’s story as insignificant, and might even have an aversion to trading as a possible tool to self-employment, but if considered against the backdrop of high youth unemployment (at around 63%) and the current job losses in the country, it is refreshing to meet someone who decided to ‘get up, swallow her pride and get on with it’.

South Africa is experiencing a technical recession and thousands of jobs will be shed over the coming months. Life in South Africa is hard, opportunities are scarce, but with a little humility, anyone can make a living and eventually grow a modest enterprise into a substantial business.

We will be keeping tabs on Gadifele and her journey and will report back.


A day in the life of a youth owned cooperative.

Any kind of farming is a leap of faith. Whether you’re a young person setting out, determined to grow things, or a mid-life changer, intent on a less stressful lifestyle, or someone who grew up on a farm who wants simply to continue working in this age-old profession, you know it will be hard and that there will be failures. But that’s true of the best things. The secret is that it is possible to succeed.

Our organisation, TWH Consumer Cooperative, spent a day with a youth owned cooperative in Tarlton township outside Krugersdorp. Like most South African townships, Tarlton is plagued by high unemployment and poverty levels.

We spoke to 31 year old Mr Rapula Mbele, chairperson of the Thusa Farming and Multipurpose Cooperative, on the nature of their business and the future of their cooperative. Thusa Farming is presently mainly operating as an agricultural cooperative. In general, agricultural cooperatives can be classified into three broad categories according to their main activity, namely marketing cooperatives (which may bargain for better prices, handle, process or manufacture, and sell farm products), farm supply cooperatives (which may purchase in volume, manufacture, process or formulate, and distribute farm supplies and inputs such as seed, fertilizer, feed, chemicals, petroleum products, farm equipment, hardware, and building supplies), and service cooperatives (which provide services such as trucking, storage, ginning, grinding, drying, artificial insemination, irrigation, credit, utilities, and insurance).

Thusa Farming started in 2010 with a group of five youth. They run a five-tunnel farming operation planting mainly tomatoes, but once in a while branch out to other  cash crops like sweet potatoes. Through hardwork and sheer determination they have managed to secure regular buyers such as the SPAR in Krugersdorp and the Brandvlei supermarket just across the road.

Though their cooperative has experienced a number of challenges, one being secure electricity, Mr Mbele remains hopeful and resolute that they can achieve great success, expand and employ more youth. He believes that agriculture as a career is often overlooked by young people, which is unfortunate since there are a multitude of opportunities in this sector. His final message (see clip) is that the youth must take up farming and that we need to cultivate a love and appreciation for farming with small children.

Mr Mbele has become a friend of our cooperative, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with them and stocking our Cooperative Grocery Store with Thusa Farming’s produce.

If you would like to join our cooperative, please send us an email to







Stop the extraction!


This article places the spotlight on consumer cooperatives.

A consumer cooperative is almost always formed by hundreds of people who live in the same community with the goal of opening and operating a supermarket to supply their food needs. In other words, instead of doing their shopping from e.g. SPAR, Pick n Pay or Checkers, the members of a consumer cooperative buy from their own co-op store, thereby sharing in its profits.

We have a lot of retailers that have since the dawn of democracy entered our black communities to simply extract wealth. They certainly do create a few jobs with every supermarket they open, but they extract far more than they inject into the local economy. Oftentimes they simply put the small family owned shop out of business. Many of these business owners do not even stay in the communities they are milking. The anecdotal monthly salary of R 3 000 per employee is a stark contrast to the billions of rand they are repatriating annually from the black community.

The benefits of having consumer cooperatives are numerous, especially for the black South African nation because of the low economic base it started on post 1994. Firstly, the sharing of annual profits between members of the community will allow the wealth to stay and circulate in the community. Secondly, members will have a say in how the store is run; i.e. which products must be sourced and where they ought to be sourced. Many locals (especially the unemployed) could be given the opportunity to become producers and suppliers of goods sold through the local cooperative stores. Thirdly, hundreds of locals could potentially find employment in these consumer cooperatives thus creating greater prosperity in the community.

Lets take a look at the consumer cooperative movement in parts of Europe. Residents in European villages, small towns, suburbs and cities fiercely protect their local economies from extraction by capitalists. Millions have over the years organised themselves into consumer cooperatives owning thousands of supermarkets allowing them to buy from themselves, support local producers and farmers and sharing in the surplus annually. Here are a few examples of European consumer cooperatives:

  • In Denmark the largest cooperative grocery store is Super Brugsen which has 1 200 stores owned by over 1.4 million consumers.
  • The largest consumer cooperative in Switzerland has 2 213 shops owned by over 2.5 million customers.
  • In Finland, S- ryhmä  or the S-Group, has a membership of over 1.4 million individuals which represents over 62% of Finnish households.
  • In the UK, millions of people have come together to form over 2 800 cooperative grocery stores

If consumer cooperatives are formed in every village, township and suburb, endless opportunities could be opened for millions of black people as either producers, suppliers or employees. South Africa could give birth to thousands of new black industrialists producing new brands of coffee, tomato sauce, canned foods, maize products, cleaning detergents and so forth.

Is it not time that South African villages, townships and suburbs start organising cooperative owned grocery stores and start turning this expense into income?

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