Using nonviolent leadership in a context of violence

The annual Masakhane youth leadership programme, run by the Community Development Association on the Edgewood campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, offers a great opportunity for focusing on how young people take leadership despite the pervasive violence of South African society. This year, instead of taking sole responsibility, Crispin Hemson, ICON Director, involved a group of young students from the Innovative Leadership Programme at Durban University of Technology.

Nkonzo Mkhize, from the Innovative Leadership Programme, explaining a participatory exercise


Youngsters spoke in pairs on their experience of violence and then discussed what that was like.

Young leaders participate in the discussion; about 230 Grade 11 learners were present.


The final section consisted of young people who volunteered to speak about their own nonviolent response to bad, often violent situations. This revealed just how resourceful students have been in confronting very difficult situations. One spoke of having to challenge a family over the sexual abuse of a young woman by a family member. Another spoke of organising resistance to violence within school and forming an organisation that deals with the challenges facing young people. Another confronted in a loving way a family member who had just hit her. Yet another spoke of the way he challenged the humiliating treatment of fellow learners.

Those who spoke on taking nonviolent action


In response, Crispin Hemson spoke of the seeds of greatness amongst the young people, both those who spoke and those who listened, and urged them to remind themselves constantly of their intelligence and worth. South Africa, despite its violent history and often violent presence, has produced remarkable leaders who have practised and demonstrated nonviolent leadership.