Young ambassadors in Kensington are proving peace is possible
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by Brian Williams
“Human rights are rights that are inherent to all human beings,” states the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution dealing with human dignity states: “Everyone has the right to human dignity and to have their dignity respected.”
Yet, the fundamental rights are denied to millions of people living in the shadow of the bright lights of Cape Town, the tourist city with its eternal beauty. The bloodied earth and scorched ground of the Cape Flats, bear harrowing testimonies to the tortured cries that permanently fill the air.
Cape Town is the most violent city compared to any city in Africa, China, India, Russia, America, Asia, Australia or Europe. Within Cape Town, it is the Cape Flats that carries the scars that echo the global statistics published in June last year (Mexican Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice).
Yet peace is possible and violence can be subdued and contained.
Last year, not one person was murdered by gangs in the violent area of the Kensington-Factreton community referred to as the “Ghetto” or the “Gat” (the “hole”). In the adjacent informal settlement of 1 000 people, no crimes were reported and no direct violence took place.
Peace ambassadors who live in the Kensington-Factreton area became significantly active in the most depressed areas and showed that they cared about the people. Humanitarian relief work was done: food provided to the most destitute and boys and girls were supported.
Peace ambassadors became known for their small acts of solidarity. They involved the people in seeking solutions to the problems they face every day. The peace leaders were visible through their good deeds on the ground. They wear their light blue T-Shirts, depicting the colour code of peace with pride.
These leaders have no hidden agendas and seek to serve the most vulnerable.
Peace ambassadors earned the respect of the children and their parents and come from the area where the dignity-enhancing activities took place.
Warlords control territory in our communities. Before campaigns could get off the ground, individuals of influence who were identified as the so-called gang leaders were contacted.
They were informed that the young peace ambassadors would be helping marginalised families in the area.
Not one food parcel was stolen from the peace ambassadors and not a single person involved with the humanitarian relief work was threatened or injured.
In the adjacent informal settlement, the leaders received peace ambassador training.
They had a frame of reference to mobilise the informal settlement community to take responsibility to help themselves despite their dire circumstances. When the water truck no longer provided water regularly, the leaders of the informal settlement decided to create awareness about their tragic situation. They organised a peaceful march to draw attention to the need for water and their lack of human rights. The immediate result of that was a water solidarity campaign by other peace ambassadors who live in the area. The City of Cape Town has, in principle, agreed to provide taps for running water but the owners of the land have not yet given permission to the City.
General André Lincoln, head of the Anti-Gang Unit, praised the work of the peace ambassadors: “The Peace Ambassadors programme is one of the most effective programmes in building peace in communities and preventing violence.”
Rudolph Wiltshire, head of law enforcement for the City of Cape Town, visited the area a few times to see first-hand what was happening on the ground. He was impressed.
Wiltshire said: “The work of the peace ambassadors is groundbreaking and innovative in promoting peace and giving people hope to tackle problems which face them.”
He said he “saw a social laboratory where poor people are working in terms of a peace model and achieving astonishing results”.
He was inspired and looking at “creating a new model for law enforcement that would combine a strategic peace partnership with communities.”
Ilona Crouch, chairperson of the Informal Settlement Committee, her husband Idriss Ismail, and daughter Beyoncè are peace ambassadors. They expressed their happiness that the area was not experiencing violence.
Against the background of the worst pandemic in centuries, in a little corner of the Kensington-Factreton community, the possibility for peace to root itself has emerged.
* Professor Brian Williams is Visiting Professor in Peace, Mediation and Labour Relations: University of the Sacred Heart, Gulu, Uganda; chief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation; Thought Leader Award Recipient for 2018 (Black Management Forum); International Award-winning poet: seven books published.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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