Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP): Southern Africa Country Report

Prepared for the AVP Africa Regional Gathering

Kigali, Rwanda 31 July – 6 August 2016

AVP in South Africa 2014-2016


Country Context

Violence has pervaded much of South Africa’s history, from colonisation by the Dutch (1652) and British; slavery and forced labour; resistance to colonial dispossession and domination; warring tribes; the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars; apartheid and the liberation struggle; to violence in the post-apartheid era.  While there have been many positive gains in the 22 years since our largely peaceful transition to a constitutional democracy, the levels of violence are currently escalating alarmingly. This is mainly because South Africa today, with its population of 55m+, is one of the most structurally unequal countries in the world.


SA is characterised by:

  • extreme levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment (> 50% among youth), fuelled by neoliberal economic policies and the global economic crisis;
  • severe and pervasive violence in the home, school and street;
  • appalling rape statistics and a violent sexual culture rooted in patriarchy;
  • an AIDS epidemic resulting in a myriad child-headed households,
  • risky sexual behaviour from late primary school, with tens of thousands of teenage pregnancies each year
  • out-of-control abuse of alcohol and narcotics, with dangerous secondary effects.
  • a deteriorating state health system
  • educational crises of a dysfunctional school system at every level, including classroom culture, lesson content and school support mechanisms
  • lamentable crime statistics, implying both lack of security and high temptation into crime for unemployed youth; a rising murder rate and gratuitous violence during criminal acts
  • gangsterism coupled with illegal firearm and drugs trade
  • racism, ethnicity, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, often manifested in violent attacks
  • prostitution and trafficking of women and children
  • frequent (sometimes violent) protests about poor or non-existent service delivery, employment conditions, and, recently, demarcation and election lists
  • state-sanctioned violence against protesters (police brutality)
  • greed that fuels corruption of politicians and the state, government maladministration
  • power hunger resulting in conflict and violence between political parties and within parties
  • constitutional violations (flouting the Bill of Rights and court rulings; censorship of violent protests by the national broadcaster prior to the current local government elections)


All this undermines the hopes and possibilities of a better life, and violates hard-won democratic freedoms. It produces high levels of trauma – a continuation of the traumas of apartheid and the liberation struggle – and anger. People are angry that, despite some improvements, their daily lives still consist of so much hardship and suffering. They are angry and feel betrayed that their government, specifically the ANC, is not ‘delivering’ on promises when they and their families sacrificed so much in the liberation struggle. Their experiences of systemic and direct violence beget violent responses. It is a vicious cycle.   Interrupting the cycle of violence and building a peaceful society require, fundamentally, a massive reduction of structural inequalities, social injustice and systemic violence. These are long term goals. Here and now people also need constructive ways to deal with their own daily internal and interpersonal conflicts and feelings of stress, anger and aggression. This can empower them to cope better in the face of the larger difficulties of their lives.


Introduced to South Africa in 1995, AVP has proven to be a highly effective programme for empowering people and groups to manage their interpersonal and intergroup conflicts without resorting to violence. Where so much else undermines and divides people, AVP helps to build self-esteem and a sense of community. It can also help people to understand how the larger context impacts them, which can strengthen their commitment and capacity to work for a more just and peaceful society.


AVP South Africa[1] consists of various NGOs and groups doing AVP with different communities in 4 of the 9 provinces of SA, as follows:

  • Eastern Cape: AVP Eastern Cape                                        community leaders, community groups, at-risk youth
  • Western Cape: Embrace Dignity*, Quaker Peace Centre* schools, Quakers, ‘Sisters’ (prostitutes[2]), prison inmates
  • Gauteng Province: Phaphama Institute* and Quakers         schools, community groups, community workers
  • KwaZulu-Natal: AVP-KZN Facilitator Network*[3]                  schools, tertiary post-grads, youth and community groups, prisons

Each province has its own contextual challenges, e.g. KZN has the highest levels of HIV/AIDS infections and political killings in the country; EC is the poorest province with the lowest schooling rates; WC has severe gang- and drug-related violence, and frequent flooding of poor areas.

Each province’s detailed report is attached and when read together with this report will give an in depth picture of AVP in South Africa. The decision-making structure of particular AVP groups is reflected in some of the individual reports.

What follows is a summary.


AVP Workshops in South Africa from February 2014 – June 2016

Eastern Cape Western Cape Gauteng KwaZulu-Natal Total
Type & # of workshops

(standard AVP w/s)

AVP Basic                  17


AVP Advanced            2


T4F Facil. Training      2


Basic                  60


Adv                     59


T4F                       7


Basic                10


Adv                    7


T4F                    2


Basic                        20


Adv                             5


T4F                             4



Adv  73


T4F   15

Total std. workshops                                   21                                                            126                         19                                  29         195
Type & # of workshops

(mini-, refreshers, variations)

Tasters for youth         4

Trauma Awareness Taster                          1








Workshops           5



Peace Club facilitator training


Tasters                       1


Peace club facilitator training                       4


Facilitator Refresher

Training                      1




Participants Community groups

Community leaders

Youth, at-risk youth

School learners

Police Officers

Emerging entrepreneurs


School learners



Youth & adult prison inmates

Women exiting from prostitution

School learners

Community workers

School learners



P-g peace students from African countries

Prison inmates

Peace development workers (MCC)



Baseline data before AVP trainings


Eastern Cape (EC) obtains some baseline data prior to doing AVP training.

Western Cape (WC): QPC is keeping attendance registers, taking pictures, reporting to management and funders

KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) obtains baseline data in its schools peace clubs programme, which is relevant since the peace club members go on to do AVP workshops.


AVP workshops evaluation and recommendations


All AVP groups ask participants to do written evaluation at the end of each workshop. Longer-term follow-up evaluation happens mainly through participants doing further training (advanced, T4F).

Developing complementary skills

See individual reports for more details:


EC: Beginning to address facilitators’ needs in networking skills and proposal writing. Offered trauma awareness taster.

WC: QPC facilitators receive Gender training & Peer Mediation training.

KwaZulu-Natal: From 1-6 facilitators have benefited from the following: capacity-building workshops at AVPI 2014; Peace Clubs training & field trip to Zambia; training in developing civilian peacebuilding capacity, at Africa Peace Institute; mentoring in organizational skills; assistance with accessing funding to complete university degree; participated in trauma awareness taster.


Highlights and success stories (not limited to trainings)

AVP-SA: Our first Southern Africa Facilitator Gathering in August 2015 in Port Elizabeth was a highlight and an important step towards a cohesive AVPSA structure. The cooperation and coordination involved in producing this countrywide report has been very positive.

See the individual reports for fuller details on the following:

EC: Fundraising, organising & hosting of first SA Facilitator Gathering in August 2015, including representation from Free State Province, Namibia and Lesotho; training of twenty community leaders as facilitators through accessing networks; key links with community engagement projects.

WC: The continuous intensive AVP programme in Pollsmoor Prison (approx. 40 workshops per year); extensive facilitator training programme developed with prison and community experience; extensive links with community organisations; training and supporting Peer Facilitators at high schools; AVP is integral to the Pupils Advisory Forums on Violence programme, and forms the basis for the Peer Mediation programme.

Gauteng (G): Achievement of service provider accreditation & national qualification status for AVP (Phaphama); training community workers who mentor school learners; positive responses from community workers.

KZN: AVP Network now a registered NPO; relocation of office from university to an NPO; new programme taken on (peace clubs) which increases access to schools; increasing community links; relationship with MCC & 4-year MCC funding for some of our work. The Network along with AVP-Namibia supported AVP-Bulawayo to get established and fund, organise and run 2 Basic workshops.


Advocacies undertaken and Key People/Organisations engaged


AVP groups engaged with various community, government, education, university, business & other agencies (see individual reports):


EC       Rhodes University Department of Community Engagement; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Southern African         Development, Training & Research Institute; Mandela Bay Development Agency; Rotary; Hogsback Police Forum; Masifunde Youth Development Agency; Umzi Wethu Wilderness Foundation; Assumption Development Centre Grahamstown;             Community partners & other key stakeholders

WC      Pollsmoor Prison; Beth Uriel Youth Centre; Worcester Concerned Community Group; Family & Marriage Society of SA;

University of the Western Cape; South Africa Police Services; Metro South Education District; schools.

G        Services Sector Education & Training Authority; Trias; Dobsonville Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Soweto) & Diepsloot Chamber of Business

KZN     Moral Regeneration Movement in Office of Provincial Minister; Healing of the Memories; Mennonite Central Committee (MCC);

Pmb Agency for Community Social Action; National Department of Correctional Services Spiritual Director; Phoenix Rising            (NGO working with prisoners & their families); Durban University of Technology: Dept. of Conflict Resolution & Peace Studies;

YMCA Durban; Rotary Pmb; Family Literacy Project; Dept. of Basic Education & Training – Schools, Learner Support          Agents


Use of networks to mobilize resources

EC: GiZ have been mandated to form a coalition of NGOs in PE and we are helping them do this by providing information on local stakeholders.

KZN: The Mennonite Central Committee in Pmb & SA; Centre for Adult Education at University of KwaZulu-Natal; Quaker links




Changes that have occurred since 2014

  • Communication between the different AVP groups has improved, and has extended to neighbouring countries: there was a first gathering of facilitators from southern African in August 2016, with a second one planned for 2017
  • there is some cooperation and collaboration of facilitators within SA, and between countries; some groups are taking AVP training to neighbouring countries
  • SA has increased its participation in AVP International and AVP Africa
  • more research on AVP is being done and published
  • AVP is gradually being integrated into the formal education system: links with the Department of Basic Education and Training exist or are being established at some level in all 4 provinces; Phaphama Institute has become an officially accredited training provider for AVP as a recognized training programme in line with South African Qualification Authority standards
  • Generally, opportunities for offering AVP have fluctuated as some institutional avenues have closed down while others have opened up; the same applies to funding which remains a challenge for everyone.
  • The SA context has become more unstable, especially economically and in terms of social unrest. There is increasing authoritarianism and levels of violence seem to be escalating.  


Institutions AVP has been taken to since 2014


EC     GiZ, NMMU, MBDA, Umzi Wethu, Rhodes University, SADRAT, National Safe School Network

WC    Pollsmoor Prison – this programme has been ongoing since well before 2014; schools

G        Sacred Heart College

KZN   Student Y; Healing of Memories; Family Literacy Programme; Education Department (Schools);

Durban University of Technology; Archdiocese of KwaZulu-Natal

AVP’s links with other peace efforts and activities reflecting societal need

These are reflected under other headings in this report, and in the individual reports


Compiled by Marie Odendaal with inputs from the authors of EC, WC, KZN and Gauteng reports & KZN facilitators.

[1] AVP-SA has not yet been formalised as a body, but progress has been made in this direction.

[2] Embrace Dignity is an NGO that assists women to exit from prostitution as a means of survival/way of life.

[3] The asterisk * denotes registered Non-Profit Organisations