Statement by ICON on violence at DUT

Incidents of violence at our university, Durban University of Technology, in recent days have cost the life of one student and brought injury to other members of the campus community. We at the International Centre of Nonviolence are deeply affected by this. In addition, we wish to play a direct role in changing relationships at the university that are based on mistrust and hostility. We have thus communicated to student leaders and management our willingness to be involved in processes that create a situation in which conflicts can be resolved through discussion, without harm to any party.

We understand that our universities are not immune to violence; they are part of a violent society and have a responsibility not to reproduce that violence within their institutions. Disrupting these cycles of violence is in our view a core task of the university and is not peripheral to the processes of teaching and learning. We at ICON take up our responsibility of addressing this through our teaching, supervision, research and community engagement, both generally and in response to these specific incidents.

Crispin Hemson, Director
On behalf of the staff of ICON
8th February 2019

How easily can ICON promote peace in communities?

As part of the ICON’s role in community engagement, it works through the Durban Leadership Programme on a Peace Forest initiative in Lindelani, Ntuzuma, an area of the city that has a history of extreme violence.
As part of this work the Director was due to speak at a peace service at a church on 8th September. After a long delay, the service started with about 80 people, including women and a few older men, young men, teenagers and younger children. Some had come from rural areas and another province.
As the Director said, ‘Although the invitation had been to give a motivational speech on peace, I said I had little to say except that peace rested on two key elements: people’s thinking and their values and I wanted to connect with these. I asked those present to provide us with their questions around peace. I said that I would not answer the questions. Indeed there were no solutions for those present in London and New York – the solutions would need to be developed by the people present.’
After a brief hesitation, the questions started to come. They are presented here, with a statement as to which group the questioner was in:
Why is there a high rate of drugs?
How can we protect older citizens from abuse?
Why do we have a high rate of prostitutes?
Why do Christians quarrel amongst themselves?
Why are young girls at school falling pregnant?
Why are fathers deemed to be people who protect families, but they are in the forefront of carrying out abuse?
When people complain, why do they need to burn things?
Young men
How can we have development in our communities?
Why do people who get into authority treat people as if they are dirty clothes?
Very young children
Why are people jealous if a neighbour buys a new car?
It is allowed for teachers to hit children for wrong answers?
Why are taxi drivers not respected?
Young children
Why are people killing each other because of money?
What kinds of things must we do to bring peace in the world?
How can we help drug addicts?
Why do rich people not respect poor people?
Why do drunk people abuse women?
How can we help street kids?
Why do learners in school sell drugs?
Is it allowed by right or law for learners to harm teachers?
Why are young girls selling their bodies?
Why do old people want to sleep with young kids?
Clearly the older people present were very struck by the quality of young people’s thinking.  Possibly, women were using the opportunity to put issues on the table that are not often brought into discussion. There was not time to speak further, but if there had been more time, we could have taken just one of those issues to explore further how communities could start to develop more effective responses.
This approach draws on different bodies of theory – the one is the work on ‘wicked problems’ (Grint 2008). The other is the theory around the forms of knowledge that exist in communities (for example, critical race theory;  Kretzmann and McKnight 1996; Yosso 2005). The third is the need not to structure university-community relationships on the basis of either structural violence or cultural violence (Galtung 1990). For example, our community engagement needs to affirm and recognise the qualities of leadership amongst people in ‘the community’.
For ethical reasons, the images of the work are not posted here.
  • Galtung, J. 1990. Cultural violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27(3): 291-305.
  • Grint, K. 2008. Wicked problems and clumsy solutions: the role of leadership. Clinical Leader 1(2), 11-26.
  • Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. 1996. A twenty-first century map for healthy communities and families.Evanston, IL: Asset-Based Community Development Institute, North-western University.
  • Yosso T. 2005. Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education (8) 1: 69-91.