On Sunday, 18 January 2009 the Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, was invited to participate in the celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of the community of Mpumalanga in KwaZulu Natal.
The celebrations, which included an address by the Minister in the Office of the President, The Honourable Dr. Manto Shabalala-Msimang, included recognizing individuals who have played a positive role in the history of the community. This included those who: had passed away but who had fought against the violence in Mpumalanga (Mpumalanga was embroiled in intense political violence between 1986 and 1990 and was known as “Little Beirut” – over 2000 lives were lost); those individuals who were involved in peace efforts and who continue to support the community; those people who have put Mpumalanga on the map through their careers/skills (sport, entertainment, etc); and those individuals who have contributed towards the development of the community through business, politics, religion and other sectors.
In 1993 the community of Mpumalanga was awarded ACCORD’s first Africa Peace Award (APA), which they received in recognition for ending the violence in their community. Mr. Gounden was invited to re-present the award to the community. In 1993 the award was jointly received on behalf of the community by the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC, Dr. Meshack Radebe) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP, the late Sipho Mlaba), who were instrumental in the peace negotiations that ended the violence.
Vasu Gounden along with Dr. Meshack Radebe (2nd person on the right) and representatives of the community of Mpumalanga with the Africa Peace Award
The re-presentation of the award was symbolic to remind a younger generation of the award that the community had received and the value of working and living together to create a peaceful environment for all. Mr. Gounden also informed those members of the community present (an estimated 7-8 000 people) of the visits facilitated by ACCORD that Dr. Radebe and Mr. Mlaba undertook following the award ceremony by becoming peace ambassadors, visiting communities in Northern Ireland and Burundi, among others, to share the experience of Mpumalanga.
Expanding on the issue of co-existence, and strengthening the factors for which the community of Mpumalanga was given the 1993 APA, Mr. Gounden also presented the Community with a copy of a recently published report entitled “Views and Visions of Co-existence in South Africa”. The report documents a series of community consultations in three South African communities – Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape and Muden and Mpumalanga in KwaZulu Natal, where community members were invited to share their stories of transiting from violent conflict to cooperative post-conflict coexistence.
The coexistence initiative at ACCORD began in 2003, when ACCORD, in partnership with the New York based organisation the Coexistence Initiative, undertook a series of community consultations in the three communities. Follow-up visits were conducted by ACCORD in May 2008 to revisit the initial study. During the visits, community members were updated on the progress made on the initiative, and an assessment was done on the extent to which coexistence has been maintained.