Trauma victims in programme to forgive former foes

FLASHBACK: An ANC aligned self-defence unit led by a gun toting comrade charges a hostel housing predominantly IFP members, while under fier, during pre-electio vilence in 1994 on the East Rand. Joao Silva. 28/05/00. © Picturenet.
FLASHBACK: An ANC aligned self-defence unit led by a gun toting comrade charges a hostel housing predominantly IFP members, while under fier, during pre-electio vilence in 1994 on the East Rand. Joao Silva. 28/05/00. © Picturenet.

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Many years after the political strife that devastated KwaZulu- Natal, half of the political violence survivors are still traumati sed by their experiences.

This was revealed by Sinani-KZN Programme for Survivors of Violence - an NGO based in KwaZulu-Natal.

Speaking to Sowetan during a general meeting of survivors of violence in Durban last week, Celani Ziqubu, a public relations officer of Sinani, said nearly 50percent of the survivors of political violence were still traumatised, years after the violence.

KwaZulu-Natal went up in flames in the early 1980s, continuing into the 1990s, when supporters of the ANC and the IFP got involved in political clashes.

After the formation of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the violence spread to Richmond, the home turf of S'fiso Nkabinde, the then general secretary of the party.

It was during Nkabinde's tenure that much violence broke out in the area. A total of 144 people were killed in 1991 and scores were injured.

Nkabinde was killed in January 1999 when 80 rounds were fired at him. His attackers and Nkabinde's family have since made peace with one another.

"Most of them are still traumatised and have not healed from the violence. Some are still angry and are in pain over what happened. It might have happened a long time ago, but they have not yet forgiven [the perpetrators]," said Ziqubu.

Ziqubu said most of the people who visit Sinani are young orphans, widows and widowers.

"Most women complain about their husband's dying in violence and that their children were scattered after homes were set on fire. Some will tell you that they don't even know where their kids are today," she said.

Zwelakhe Mbuyisa, an IFP member, said they had to go through a lot of healing before they could accept there was nothing to fear from an ANC or UDM member.

"We used to fight a lot in Richmond. Wearing an ANC T-shirt meant that you were an enemy, but now we live in harmony with one another," said Mbuyisa.

Bheki Phoswa, of the UDM, said 1998 was the worst period for his party and the ANC.

"We did not see eye to eye and we resorted to violence whenever time allowed but, after Sinani intervened and put us together, we started realising that killing one another was not a solution to whatever the problem was," said Phoswa.

He said there were times when IFP and ANC supporters would be in the same room and neither side would sleep at night for fearof being attacked.

"We learnt to trust one another and actually felt safe when we were together. We started seeing each other as brothers and sisters, not enemies," said Jabulani Mtolo, an ANC member.

Mtolo said areas such as Phatheni, Magoda, popularly known as war zones, are now peaceful places where party supporters work together for the betterment of people's lives.

"Crime is one element we have to fight," said Mtolo.

Senzo Mchunu, ANC provincial secretary, said that they were not surprised by the findings because the healing process takes a lengthy period.

"Surely the wounds inflicted by the activities of the past will be there on a life-time basis. Ours is to persuade people to forgive, not to say to forget. We know its not going to be easy, but we have to do something," said Mchunu.

Mchunu said the survivors of incidents like the one in Mbumbulu, where a whole family was wiped out, will need more than a healing process initiated by politicians. He said religious and business organisations also need to play a role.

Teddy Thwala, UDM's provincial youth chairman, said the party was working with the ANC Youth League in the province on the issue of peace and on programmes that will keep people busy.

"Counselling alone is not enough. Making a person accept certain things is not enough, but what we need is to come with programmes that would keep a person active in sports and agriculture, while he is in a healing process," said Thwala.

Political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that if some peoplewere still angry and not healed, it meant that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's programme had fallen flat.

"Their mandate was to get all the political victims to come up and speak about their experiences. If we still have people holding grudges, it is clear the TRC failed," said Ndlovu.