During the intense struggles of the 1980s the mobilisation of people across race and class brought a certain leadership to the fore. Church leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Reverend Dr Beyers Naudé, who gave Kagiso Trust its start, provided a moral centre.
Other personalities initiated new ways of dealing with apartheid oppression. Among them were clerics, including the Reverend Frank Chikane, the Reverend Allan Boesak and Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa; secular leaders such as Yunus Mahomed and business people such as Dr Max Coleman, some of the patrons and trustees who played a formative role in the establishment of Kagiso Trust.
At the same time, there was a conscious attempt to move South Africans from resistance in the streets to the corridors of development. Kagiso Trust played an important role in this process.
In the transition from resistance to preparation for governance and to implementation Kagiso Trust supported a number of key development institutions including the Johannesburg Housing Company; the Mvula Trust; the Tertiary Education Fund for South Africa (TEFSA), now called the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS); Operation Blanket; Soul City; Soetfontein Rural Development Association, and others.