From the CEO’s desk
Some of us who witnessed political violence back in the 80’s still have unpleasant flashbacks of people being burned with necklaces (tires), people being forced to drink cooking oils during consumer boycotts campaigns and police arrests, harassments & torchers which were part of our everyday life. We lived in fear, and wondered what the future held. Schools were always easy targets. Families which could afford sent their children to “protected” schools or oversee and others which had relatives at less volatile areas got their kids to move and go live there. Many families did not have options. So they attended schools which were constantly disrupted. This is one of the reasons why many Africans did not complete matric. They now cannot help their kids with homework, and many of them cannot get jobs. The lucky ones who are employed may never be considered for a promotion.
When the country was on a knife edge, some courageous white business leaders decided to grab the bull by its horns and began to talk to “terrorists & communists” who were blamed for the turmoil that was about to escalate in a civil war. Their efforts resulted in bringing representatives of political leaders, government of the day, leaders of faith communities, civil society, business and the labour movement agreeing to negotiate. After many meetings, negotiators and their constituencies adopted the National Peace Accord (NPA) – an agreement which enabled them to work for Peace so that they could build a new nation. Leaders who signed the National Peace Accord rose to the occasion and worked towards normalising the situation. This eventually enabled the country to become a constitutional after many years of sacrifices.
The National Peace Accord had many structures. One of its structures was the National Peace Accord Trust (NPAT), a non-profit organisation that was given the task of building peace and stability in communities. NPAT managed to mobilise South Africans to bring about a “conducive” environment for free and fair elections. After the elections, NPAT focussed on providing restorative interventions to communities which were negatively affected by decades of racial discriminations and people who experienced traumatic experiences.
The current spate of the so called “service delivery protests”, seem to have brought about a situation that, in many regards, resemble a South Africa of the 80’s. NPAT has been assessing the situation and asking itself how it should respond to this challenge. The board of NPAT has resolved to re-invent its conflict mediation flagship in order to again engage in the seeking of lasting solutions for these violent protests actions.
NPAT has an institutional legacy of bringing people who viewed each other as enemies together to sit in negotiations to find solutions on issues that were seemingly irreconcilable. The organisation has tapped in its institutional memory and reconstituted its Conflict Transformation program. It is currently building capacity that can match the present challenges that are posed by these protests.
I will soon announce how the program will be rolled out in this site and other media platforms. So, be sure to watch this space and start to get ready to contribute in finding a solution like you did in the 90’s or you wish you had done. If you were not there, you are now today, and you can be part of a generation that wants to write another chapter of our history.