The ASC has just completed another one of our Applied Conflict Transformation courses. Full details will be shared in the next newsletter. This course included an opportunity to connect participants in to South Africa’s election day, beginning with a visit to Constitution Hill. The Constitution is the foundation of the South African Constitutional Democracy providing a useful starting point for a conversation on democracy, transformation and public participation.
Course participants included conflict transformation practitioners, peacebuilders, academics and development workers from Syria, Somaliland and Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, with a rich additional range of countries from which the group had direct experience. The trip provided them with the opportunity to remember and reflect upon the historic struggle that birthed the democracy that South Africans now enjoy, and consider the lessons learned from South Africa’s past.
Constitution Hill houses a long history of South African conflict, and embodies the struggles fought to free it. In his book, A long walk to Freedom, Mandela said “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” The exhibition leads one through this experience, reconstructing the cells used to house prisoners opposed to the oppressive apartheid regime. Various displays show the laws used to justify the criminalization of blacks, and the practices that dehumanized them. In disbelief one participant asked the question many have asked all over the world – why has something as superficial as skin colour been the source of so much division and oppression?
Indeed, the harsh racial dynamics presented at Constitution Hill stood in stark contrast to the diversity of the ACT group, now seeking to build peace in their communities and world. With this experience fresh in mind, the group made their way to the voting stations that now support South Africa’s democracy. The day included visits to a polling station in Soweto, and an opportunity to feel first hand the mood of the elections, as well as a chance to observe the process and technicalities of the democratic process.