On Friday the 14th of October, the IJR hosted the book launch of Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in South Africa: The National Peace Accord 1990-1994, authored by Oxford academic and former activist, Revd Dr Liz Carmichael MBE.

This publication, which represents the first full account of the South African National Peace Accord (NPA), fills a significant gap in knowledge of this key transitional phase in the country’s history. Signed by the ANC Alliance, Government, Inkatha Freedom Party and other political and labour organizations on 14 September 1991, the parties agreed in the NPA on the common goal of a united, non-racial democratic South Africa and provided practical means for moving towards this end.

This book describes the formulation of the NPA and its implementation: the establishment of codes of conduct for political organizations and for the police, the creation of national, regional and local peace structures for conflict resolution and the investigation and prevention of violence, peace monitoring, as well as the critical socio-economic reconstruction and peacebuilding that aimed to bring lasting change. The NPA was recognized internationally as South Africa’s sole consensus document, bringing observers from the UN, EU, Commonwealth and OAU, and the author also assesses their role and that of the Goldstone Commission, which prefigured the TRC.

Rev. Dr Carmichael provided an overview of the publication’s content, which was followed by a panel discussion moderated by former IJR executive director, Dr. Fanie du Toit. The panel, consisting of retired Constitutional Court justice, Albie Sachs, Justice Richard Goldstone, Mr. Andries Odendaal, and Mr. Malibongwe Sopangisa engaged with the book’s content and its relevance for present-day South Africa. A key insight that emerged from the discussion was that the Accord represented a novel intervention that was necessitated and shaped by a particular set of circumstances during the first half of the 1990s. The degree to which it was successful in maintaining peace during a very volatile period was largely due to the extent that it was not an imported model, but one that was highly decentralised and responsive to circumstances on the ground in different parts of the country.

As such, the important insight for peacebuilders in 2022 should be that our present difficulties in South Africa require a thorough analysis of the context that shapes these circumstances. They may be such that no external model will sufficiently address the challenges that they present. In light of this, it will be important, once again, to think with innovation about the way in which novel systemic interventions, cognisant of the present drivers of conflict, can turn the tide.

Jan Hofmeyr, The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s Head of Policy and Research