The death of an innocent man inadvertently created a movement which holds peace at its core.
When Scarborough surfer David Wolframm was murdered in May last year, a woman from Ocean View reached out to the stricken community in a show of solidarity, and strangers met on Witsands Beach, and made a pledge for peace.
From that event, a group called South Peninsula for Peace was formed.
Earl Mentor is an Ocean View resident and an intercultural facilitator with the Peace Jam Foundation. He has worked on peace building for 14 years in his own community and beyond.
He and a silent partner formed the South Peninsula for Peace group after seeing different communities unite in the wake of Mr Wolfram’s murder.
They now host monthly integration gatherings where their doors are open – specifically to residents of the valley. The members are residents of Scarborough, Kommetjie, Ocean VIew, Masiphumelele, Fish Hoek, Welcome Glen and Noordhoek. They have 35 to 40 members.
Mr Mentor says members want to heal from their past and discard inherited beliefs about other races. By talking. By listening. They want to create paradigm shifts in their relationships both with themselves, and others.
“Our aim is to become allies in overcoming stereotypes,” Mr Mentor says.
While each meeting is different, they all entail members sharing their life stories. Spooked by violence and tensions running through the valley, some participants have opted to only give their first names, but they are known to the False Bay Echo.
Fiona, from Scarborough, says joining in the gatherings has taken her to previously unexplored places.
“I’ve seen the heart of Ocean View. I’ve witnessed the stories of its people, the stories I never got to hear from the comfort of a life of privilege. Through my own tears, I’ve seen grown men shed theirs. I’ve felt extreme discomfort, but a good discomfort, like the slow cleansing of old wounds. Here is a safe space to really listen and be heard.”
Conway, from Welcome Glen, says he believes we are all custodians of the Earth and all our families, friends and communities are sacred.
“The level of repressed expression and trauma in communities on the southern peninsula has reached levels where we are having to acknowledge that systemic change is necessary.
“It’s a process of acknowledging that change starts with me to heal and release any trauma I may carry. The gathering is a cathartic process of building bridges in an open-hearted way. To be present for, listen to, and feel the diverse, unique perspectives from my neighbours – to be able to voice my perspective without making others wrong in the process.”
Teresa Nelson, from Ocean View, says the meetings have been amazing and she has attended most of them.
“What a year it has been. Bound by tragedy of what happened to David, two worlds connected. Where we have become one world. No segregation; only love for one another and bringing about peace. We have grown to be neighbours who no longer just ride past each other, we have conversations. That is the best part for me.”
Jean, from Ocean View, says: “As humans, we all can relate to ‘loss’, disappointment, trauma etc. The opportunity was there for everyone to create meaningful engagement, allowing everyone’s stories to be heard, and it created a good platform for deep listening, to allow our past to heal.
“My understanding of the gathering was to connect people from different backgrounds, living in close proximity but worlds apart in belief and social structures, enabling a new sense of community based on an ethos of humanity,respect and forgiveness.”
Nadia, from Ocean View, adds: “I see the transitions that took place in my life and how my children try to better their futures, further from where my education stopped. Although our country is not where it’s supposed to be, it ain’t where it was… how do I know it? Because a certain movement is happening; people want to cross bridges and interact, people want to speak about it and heal, a movement working towards a better tomorrow.
“I see what apartheid has done, but I am also witness to what positivity has come out from it. For many years, layers of hurt were plastered by drug and alcohol abuse, some found refuge in religion, faith a higher power, but what is happening nowadays is we have a breed of individuals full of consciousness, of humanity filled with human kindness that wants to bring real change, by being the change, and impacting lives one life at a time. By giving one gift at a time. I like to call them groundbreakers – breaking up old foundations and building new ones and therefore I am proud to be part of this movement.”
Samantha, from Noordhoek, says the gatherings have been quite profound.
“Hearing first hand the stories of people affected by forced removals and apartheid has literally been heartbreaking, but breaking open to empathy and compassion.
“I’m ashamed to say I’ve been so ignorant and unaware and have not heard stories first-hand before. I have felt a deep softening and gentleness within myself as a direct experience and healing from attending and being part of this beautiful gathering of diverse communities in deep, heartfelt and real sharing.
“Exquisite to see how sharing one’s truth and story, and being heard and witnessed, is healing in itself. I urge all to join and be part of this beautiful journey of learning, growing and creating trust and hope together.”