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Views and Visions of Coexistence in South Africa

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Muden, Stutterheim and Mpumalanga (KZN) Coexistence launches: 27, 31 March 2009 and 7 August 2009

As part of its thematic work on Peacebuilding in South Africa, the coexistence study publication: Views and Visions of Coexistence in South Africa was launched in Muden on 27 March 2009, in Stutterheim on 31 March and in Mpumalanga (KwaZulu Natal) on 7 August 2009. The objectives of the launches were to thank communities for their participation in the original and follow-up studies; for Professor Jannie Malan, Senior Researcher, to share the findings of the publications in the wider community; and to provide community members the opportunity to discuss present challenges of coexistence with ACCORD staff and an external resource person. Nearly 40 community members attended each launch.

In Muden, members of the Farmer’s Association, led by Mr Rupert Marais and black farming families, guided by Mr Jotham Myaka of the Zibambeleni community organisation, discussed the process of reconciliation after apartheid. The discussion also featured James Martin, as KPD’s external resource person. Mr Martin is the director of Translog, which helped to redesign the Pietermaritzberg Public Transport System and establish South Africa’s first community-owned infrastructure development agency. Participants were pleased about the publication of the study and acknowledged the success of coexistence. The debate during the course of the launch, however, focused on inadequacies in the government’s land redistribution; shortages in skills and capital that have hindered the success of black farmers; and a need for further community development. It was clear that these challenges create obstacles for Muden’s sustainable development and peace.

From left to right: James Martin, Joytham Myaka, Jannie Malan and Angela Ndinga-Muvumba

The Stutterheim launch involved many key individuals. Mr Nico Ferreira, the mayor of Stutterheim’s white-only town council, and Mr Chris Magwangqana – now a government official at the provincial level – then the leader of the black community, spoke eloquently about their experiences. They highlighted the challenges each faced mobilising their respective communities to negotiate a common future for Stutterheim. Mr Max July, who had been Chief Executive Officer of the Stutterheim Development Foundation, and Ms Nosima Balindlela, former Premier of the Eastern Cape Province and a leader in the coexistence initiative in Stutterheim, also participated in the launch. Although there are considerable challenges for Stutterheim, participants continue to be inspired by the process for arriving at coexistence, and for the long-term benefits to the entire community. KPD was also pleased to introduce Dr Luvuyo Wotshela, a historian in environmental and historical studies at the University of Fort Hare, to the community as our external resource person. Dr Wothsela is a native son of Stutterheim, and his short talk was received warmly.

KPD staff with the community members from Stutterheim and Dr Wotshela

The launch of the study in Mpumalanga was significant, as the community was the first recipient of the African Peace Award (APA) on the continent in 1993. The APA was instituted by ACCORD in 1993 to recognise those communities, institutions or individuals in South Africa through whose efforts conflict was turned to peace. In 1995 the Award was extended to the whole of Africa, in the hope that it would promote peace, create role models and instill a sense of pride in the people of the African Continent.

KPD staff with the community members from Mpumalanga

The launch involved many community members. It was attended by some people who lost relatives in the conflict and who provided insightful comment on the current socio-economic and political situation in the community. Hon Meschack Radebe and Mr Eugene Mlaba also attended. Mr Radebe and Mr Mlaba’s late brother, Sipho, we instrumental in the peace efforts in the community and received the APA on behalf of the community. The launch was also attended by Sipho Mlaba’s daughter, Mantombi, who reflected on development in the community. ACCORD also introduced Dr Pearl Mpilo Sithole, senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council, as a resource person. Dr Sithole emphasised that the liberation from apartheid should transcend the political sphere and spread into all the other spheres of life, underpinned by human rights, the people first principle, and inter-human morality. There was agreement that peace was not just brought about by the leaders, but by the community and that post conflict peacebuilding and development was important to maintain that peace. Peace and coexistence transcended political party affiliations, but were rather about a shared humanity, a commitment to truth, love and becoming involved in your community.

KPD hopes the resource persons - Mr Martin, Dr Wotshela and Dr Sithole - will be able to continue to engage with each community.