HOLLYWOOD actor and social activist Forest Whitaker, founder and chief executive of the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative rolling out on the Cape Flats, spoke at a press conference at the Initiative’s Community Centre. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
In 2012, Forest Whitaker, the awarding-winning American actor and Unesco Peace Envoy to South Sudan visited my home in Cape Town.

He was busy with the film Zulu, directed by Jérôme Salle, which also starred Orlando Bloom. Some of the filming took place on the Cape Flats and we chatted about extreme nature of the violence that existed.

I am happy that he decided to contribute towards building peace on the Cape Flats.

Cape Town is one of the most violent cities on the planet and the most dangerous place in the world outside Latin America.

At the launch of his American organisation, the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) in Athlone on the Cape Flats on November 14, Whitaker shared the extraordinary successes in peace work that his organisation had achieved.

I am particularly interested in the peace work in Africa where we face many problems and, according to news reports, Whitaker explained that some of the young people from Africa (South Sudan and Uganda) were able to confidently speak on international platforms about peace.

Some addressed the UN and visited other countries.

Many of these young people were able to promote peace and resolve conflicts as a result of the high quality peace training that they received. The fact that these young people from modest and poor backgrounds can be transformed through peace training to become global peace champions is extraordinary.

As South Africans we can be proud that the expert who designed the peace training material, compiled the training manual and who presented the training to these young people is from the Cape Flats.

The expert that I am referring to is Professor Brian Williams, who is a foremost authority on peace and mediation. It is noteworthy that an American organisation recognised our expertise and contracted a South African as their expert.

Williams, who lives in Kensington, provided the action learning programmes that created the globally celebrated successes of the peace work in Africa. Whitaker, on behalf of his American organisation WPDI, confirmed the success of the peace work.

Whitaker received training from Williams on peace and mediation concepts in 2012 as well as current City of Cape Town councillor Mlungisi Noludwe; former President of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) convocation Songezo Maqula; Gilda Jacobs from Hangberg and many others who were at that peace training workshop.

I was invited but was unable to attend. Maqula was at my house on 18 November 2019 and he recalled how exciting it was to have “a group of leaders from the Cape Flats in a strategic workshop with Forest Whitaker”.

Whitaker had an interest to visit the Cape Flats and to see the places where violence roamed the streets and also to experience active mediation.

Williams took Whitaker to different communities - Hanover Park, Manenberg, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Langa, Kensington, Athlone and Hangberg (Hout Bay) - where he met with the Peace and Mediation Forum leaders who were involved in seeking a resolution to intractable problems there. Williams was the one who successfully mediated the Hangberg crisis that resulted in a Peace Accord that was made an Order of the High Court.

This was probably the worst post-apartheid crisis in the Western Cape between three levels of government and the community. The clash resulted in severe injuries to members of the community and some individuals lost their eyesight.

Whitaker visited Boys Town, New Crossroads, where six people had been killed as a result of intra-community conflicts. This crisis was successfully mediated by Prof Williams and the housing development was allowed to successfully proceed. Noludwe was the community leader at the time of the visit by Whitaker and he recalled how hopeful people felt after that visit.

In 2015, Whitaker spoke at the Cape Town poetry book launch of the 5th book released by Williams, who is also an international award winning poet. Earlier this year Williams, a modest person of great integrity, received the “Thought Leader of the Year Award” for 2018 from the prestigious Black Management Forum.

Williams is a visiting professor at two international universities in Africa, in the fields of peace, mediation and labour relations. He has five university degrees, a national teacher’s diploma, is accredited as an assessor, mentor, coach and is a qualified electrician.

He taught at different universities and for two terms served as the chair of the UWC Council, the highest authority of the university. As a former unionist during apartheid, he was detained twice and charged in terms of the Internal Security Act. His commitment to justice and peace is unbroken.

Forest Whitaker should be applauded for contracting one of our best experts and icons in the field of peace and mediation to train young people.

* Dr Ricardo Peters is a global strategist in entrepreneurial development and peace and former director of the School of Business at the University of the Western Cape.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus