South Africa’s transition to democracy in the 1990s was not as peaceful as is often characterized by the outside world and people who did not know what was happening in townships and rural areas where resistance activities took place. For much of the twentieth century, the anti-apartheid movements had mobilised many local communities to challenge the state based on white supremacy, institutionalized segregation and discrimination. Their actions were often to destabilise the status quo in white areas and get more people to take part in the fight for freedom.
The security forces thought that they could clamp down on the activities the liberation movement. Resistance took root in many communities as the liberation movement became successful in mobilising almost all sectors of the society. It was not easy to contain the situation as violence flared all over. When the official negotiations began in 1990, battles for power surfaced and political violence escalated dramatically – with a 307 percent rise in fatalities from 1985 to 1991. The National Peace Accord was agreed to in 1991 as a measure to prevent further loss of lives and instability. John Hall (representing business). Religious leaders also came on board and gave the fight for freedom more credence. Bishop Stanley Mogoba became co-chairs of the NPA.
The National Peace Accord and its structures played a critical role in the relatively peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa. The NPA made it possible for many individuals to serve in different roles as activists for peace. They gave their time and skills, and often risked their lives, to work for peace. The Accord aimed at a return to the rule of law and the reassertion of communities in their own governance. It established a series of principles through the codes of conduct as a basis for accountability and good governance of all the signatories. It brought a multiplicity of stakeholders to the negotiating table for the first time.
All key role players at the National Peace Accord agreed that in order to achieve stability and to consolidate peace process, priority should be given to attending to socio-economic needs which were a result of the effects of segregation laws. The Nation Peace Committee of the accord had established a permanent committee on Socio-economic Reconstruction and Development. This committee later decided to establish a Trust which would deal with this mandate on a long term basis. The trust was established as non-profit organisation in 1992 and John Hall, who was the chairperson of the National Peace Accord became the founding chairperson of that trust – which was called the National Peace Accord Trust (NPAT).
Initially, NPAT mostly attended to crisis situations in areas that were identified by the National Peace Committee of the accord. It stepped in as a mediator in places which were experiencing political violence and later provided immediate assistance to people who were displaced or affected negatively by violence and natured peace. Latter when the situation stabilised, peace structures began to shift their focus to long-term goals of reconstruction, reconciliation and nation-building.
NPAT began to provide vital support and restorative interventions to impoverished urban and deep rural communities around the country. Some of the services it provided include setting up the Network Action Group of CBOs in the UGU District of KZN; provided SAQA accredited training to more than 500 Social Auxiliary Workers in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape; provided organisational management and leadership training to community-based victim empowerment organisation in Limpopo; and facilitated psychosocial healing and recovery, through Ecotherapy, to hundreds of ex-combatants; youth at risk; survivors of human rights abuse; and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.