Change in a context of violence

Violence has shaped our past, in the colonial and apartheid periods, and it continues to impact deeply on our present. Activists, both past and present, have had to respond in very different ways to violence in changing contexts.

Last week, activists critically examined the issue of violence affecting the country at large, the dialogue was held at the Durban University of Technology Ritson campus. 

The dialogue aimed to strengthen the effectiveness of change agents, through an intergenerational discussion on how activists address and respond to issues of violence, and how in doing so they remain consistent with their deep beliefs and commitment to justice and equity.

Activists were prepared to discuss the issue of rising violence. Mondli Zwane defined violence as a painful act, and he mentioned that violence can be psychological and physical, “If I say nasty things to you, that is violence.” Mondli stated that violence is now a culture because it is learned at an early age. He referred to his background as a Zulu person, as a kid, his parents used to punish him physically causing anger and teaching him that fighting back resolves conflict. As much as parents are teaching their kids how to behave by punishing them, the act creates pain and the eagerness of revenge when encountering the violence at large, Mondli stated with a bittersweet tone.

Gabriel Hertis, an activist from Rwanda who moved to SA to develop himself in terms of the economy, stated that racism has become a growing concern throughout the African continent. Gabriel experienced trauma caused by black South Africans whereby they were attacking him and other folks outside from the country. He mentioned that communication is key, it plays a major role in creating and preventing the issues of violence, “For a culture to survive there has to be a transfer of knowledge from one generation to another.” He stated that the Youth of South Africa is destroying everything that the activists were fighting for, he came to realise that when he goes back home, he will bring about change and fight racism.

Activator Khanyisa Booi also faced struggles in her life time, she said she can speak about gender based violence because it is happening to her too. During the dialogue she talked about mentorship, saying that there are many heroes on television but they lack courage, “Nobody has walked the walk of activism.” Miss Booi mentioned that young people who volunteer in different spaces do not have economic fulfilment that comes with the work they are doing. She said that these young people work for the betterment of their own communities, “Because South Africa has so many issues” they are being the change. She said when they go back home their parents ask them for bread, sugar and milk. She emphasised that the young ones should develop themselves because when they reach the age of 30, 40 they will be angry that they spent their time bringing about change and forgot to develop themselves.  “It brings pain to have nothing to point at,” said Khanyisa Booi.

The dialogue was insightful as it brought new aspects to the audience. The experiences shared among the activists created the spirit of ubunye and motivated others to influence their own sectors. “If we let violence continue, we will almost cease to exist” said Simone Nikki.

Photo credit: The Advocate

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