Hanover Park
Ten people were killed and many seriously injured in the past three weeks in Hanover Park as a result of gang warfare.

These killings happened at the same time that ambassadors were trying to create conditions for peace.

I was asked about the nature of violence, war and the prospects for sustainable peace within a war zone.

This penetrating question was posed by one of the young people in Hanover Park. She was concerned about the systemic violence that seems to have no beginning and no end.

For her, violence was an all consuming negative force that paralyses people into a state of hopelessness.

At its root, the contextually rich question was whether peace was really possible in Hanover Park or was it something that one only dreamt about but could never achieve.

First, peace is a choice. Conflict is natural and violence is not. Sustainable peace in Hanover Park and elsewhere is possible. The first requirement is that there must be a committed desire for peace from the people in affected communities, demonstrated through faith and action.

“Those who love peace must learn to organise as effectively as those who love war.” (Martin Luther King, jr).

This is the fundamental ingredient for the success of any peace process.

Building peace is one of the most fundamental legs of a conflict transformation macro strategy and involves all the human developmental aspects needed to prevent violence. Making peace through a restorative justice is needed at a wider level and this must be underpinned by a major reconceptualisation about the nature of violence on the Cape Flats.

Keeping peace through credible systems and containment strategies is the other crucial leg to addressing the issue of sustainable peace.

Ms Lucinda Paulse, a Peace Co-ordinator, stated that the Peace Ambassadors project is one of the most dramatic opportunities for people to take direct responsibility to own peace processes. She and other Catholics took the idea to her church in Hanover Park. After discussions with Father Jonathan, the Catholic priest, the parish received peace training and engaged in a Peace Awareness March in June 2018. The parish has become an anchor point in giving expression to the words of Pope Francis that peace is possible through reconciliation.

What should be remembered is that no one is beyond redemption. We must creatively find the compass setting that will allow us to reach even those who have lost all hope.

We must separate the deeds from the persons who commit the deeds.

While the killings in Hanover Park are linked to violent disputes inside the structures of non-state armed groups, those killed have family members who mourn for them.

Every shot fired reverberates and traumatises the community.

These groups operate on the basis that there is an inherent need for violence as a means to resolve disputes by warring factions and different structures. These armed groups dominate the lives of people in Hanover Park.

Yet each of the members of these gang structures has family members and brothers and sisters and extended families. They went to school at some point and did normal things that people do, growing up. Many have children as well as families. In between the violence and killings they engage with friends and family and do things that would be regarded as ordinary.

In a conversation with one of the leaders, he told me that he desired peace and a normal life. However, he pointed out that if he renounced violence and stepped out from the leadership of his group, he would be killed immediately by those closest to him to ensure a complete takeover.

He said he was trapped in a cycle of violence that started before he was born. Given the current policy trajectory, the systemic violence will continue undisturbed. A parallel approach must be applied to the current pilot project to include peace-making strategies. Solutions are emerging in the midst of a deepening social and spiritual crisis that has gripped South Africa. The majority of poor, working class and marginalised people have been driven to the brink of desperation by a growing wave of anti-social and predatory phenomena.

Hope shines like an eternal force that creates its own multipliers of virtue. Peace ambassadors have demonstrated that it is possible to fly above the storm clouds that block out the sun.

* Brian Williams is visiting professor in peace, mediation, reconciliation and labour relations: University of the Sacred Heart, Gulu - Uganda, andchief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers

Cape Argus