Lessons from Mpumalanga
A DELEGATION from Nagaland in north-eastern India is in KwaZulu-Natal to learn from the peace experience of Mpumalanga township outside Durban.
The state has been fighting for independence from India for the past 67 years.
Mpumalanga (Hammarsdale) is historically the first township to strike a peace deal that ended the violence between the IFP and the ANC's then internal wing, the United Democratic Front, in the 1980s.
In 1993 the community of Mpumalanga was awarded the Accord's first Africa Peace Award in recognition of ending the violence in their community.
The peace deal was initiated by the IFP's Sipho Mlaba and the ANC's Meshack Radebe. Radebe is the current MEC for social development.
The delegation visited the once volatile township's hot spots.
Mlaba's younger brother Eugene was a guest speaker invited to tell the stories of how he, Radebe and his brother survived gunshots and escaped with physical and emotional wounds.
"The violence that had engulfed us in Mpumalanga was the darkest time of our lives," he said.
"People did not go to work, school or to church. Some people could not bury their relatives.
"If you were from an IFP area you could not attend a funeral in an ANC area."
He remembered how education was affected when schools had to be closed because killings were taking piece even on school premises among fellow pupils who were forced to declare their political affiliations.
He said his brother and Radebe, though they were from rival political parties, played a huge role in preaching the gospel of peace.
Radebe said the bond that developed between him and the late Mlaba at the time, which led up to the peace deal, had continued.
Mlaba died of natural causes in 2006 after he became ill.
"When Sipho died it was like a part of me had died with him," Radebe said.
"He was more than like my biological brother."
Speaking on behalf of the Nagaland delegation, Neingulo Krome said his country had been in peace talks with the Indian government for the past 12 years.
He said their visit to KwaZulu-Natal to learn about political intolerance experiences in the country, especially the historic "Mpumalanga peace deal", are lessons that they would take back home with them.
"The hard work and dedication that the late Mlaba put into finding peace in Mpumalanga is proof that individuals need to reconcile and put politics on the side in order for a whole country to find peace," Krome said.