About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

National Peace Accord and Secretariat

Launched amid great hope and fanfare, the Peace Accord and Secretariat has had limited success in stemming the political violence which has claimed thousands of lives in South Africa.

The accord, signed on 14 September 1991 by all the major political organisations, aims to create peace in South Africa and help rebuild communities which have been ravaged by political violence.

The accord commits the signatories to adhere to political tolerance and prevent their members from taking part in acts of violence or intimidation. It upholds freedom of speech, conscience, belief, association, movement, peaceful assembly and political activity, and a multi-party democracy. It sets out codes of conduct for political organisations and the security forces, especially the police force.

It is overseen by three national structures staffed by independent volunteers, lawyers and businesspeople who act as peace monitors and watch for contraventions of the accord. The National Peace Committee, headed by businessman John Hall, oversees the working of the Peace Accord and mediates disputes; the National Peace Secretariat, under Dr Antonie Gildenhuys, establishes and co-ordinates regional and local dispute resolution committees; and the National Peace Commission, under Justice Richard Goldstone, investigates the violence and recommends ways to remove the causes of conflict.

Although political violence continues to ravage South Africa and most parties have ignored the accord's provisions at some time, it is difficult to measure the impact of the accord and the secretariat in containing the fighting. 'If nothing happens, then we have been successful,' explains a peace monitor.

Individual campaigns for peace launched by the Peace Secretariat - like National Peace Day held on 2 September 1993, and National Peace Month, September 1993 - have received overwhelming support from the public, but they have had little effect in stemming the long-term pattern of violence. Still, says Gildenhuys, the objective of peace campaigns is to make the public aware of peace and participate in these campaigns.

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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.