Zimele was founded in 2008 by Tom Purcell who had just attended a two week conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme of the conference was reconciliation and forgiveness with a specific focus on the struggle for freedom in South Africa and the end of the unjust political, socio-economic system of racial segregation popularly known as ‘apartheid’.
He was particularly inspired by the work and the heroism of Steve Biko, a brilliant young activist who died in a police van after his arrest and torture by police. Biko had set up an organisation he named ‘Zimele’, which is Zulu for ‘stand on your own feet’. Its aim was to raise to black consciousness, to promote the dignity and rights of black South Africans and to practically assist the underprivileged and those oppressed by the apartheid regime.
The well-known film, ‘Cry Freedom’ is based on the Biko story. Tom decided to use Biko’s catch-cry, ‘Zimele’, and set up a non-profit organisation which would carry on his heroic work.