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Contributing to a More Peaceful Africa

April 20, 2015

Halala Dr Webster Zambara.
Halala Dr Webster Zambara.

Now a Doctor of Philosophy, Dr Webster Zambara tells of how he completed his Grade one schooling under a tree in rural Zimbabwe. 

His thesis was titled: “Non-violence in Practice: Enhancing the Churches’ Effectiveness in Building a Peaceful Zimbabwe Through Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)”.  

The first in his family to read for a PhD, Zambara was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy (Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies) degree at a UKZN Graduation ceremony. 

Currently the Senior Project Leader for Southern Africa at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in Cape Town, he believes people are not born violent, but are socialised to become violent, and this is passed on from generation to generation. 

‘There are always alternative ways of dealing with conflict creatively and non-violently. While conflict is inevitable, violence is a choice.’  

Zambara said the church had always played a critical role in trying to build a peaceful Zimbabwe dating back to the liberation struggle by promoting issues of justice, peace, human rights, and social and economic justice. ‘On many occasions churches have also provided sanctuary to victims of politically-motivated violence. However, they have not escaped political polarisation which in many ways affected their effectiveness. 

‘As the situation in Zimbabwe continued to deteriorate in the run up to elections in 2008, youths became the main perpetrators of political violence. I therefore felt the urge to contribute by training some of them using AVP as a way of reintegrating them to normal community life.’  

Zambara outlined the findings from his research: ‘Firstly, conflict and violence on the ground was more related to local issues rather than the “master cleavage” that drove it at national level. That explained why not every community was engulfed in violence even though elections were happening nationally,’ said Zambara. 

‘Secondly, unlike what was portrayed in the mainstream media where violence seemed one-sided, youths from the main political parties were both perpetrators and victims. This exhibited the high prevalence of a culture of violence among youths regardless of political affiliation,’ he said. 

‘Thirdly, and most importantly, there was a clear shift in attitude from inclination towards violence to an inclination towards non-violence among the youths in the experimental group who were trained in AVP as compared to the youths in the control group who were not trained.’ 

Zambara’s research is internationally recognised. A peer-reviewed chapter from his thesis – “Local Initiatives After Election-Related Violence in Zimbabwe” - was published by the New York-based think tank International Peace Institute (IPI) in their publication Leveraging Local Knowledge for Peace Building and State Building in Africa, in March 2015.

He plans to continue contributing to a more peaceful Africa. ‘I have done conflict and peace work in at least 15 countries on the continent and I want to continue being a servant to this continent and its beautiful people.’ 

Zambara acknowledged all those who encouraged him while reading for his PhD ‘especially my dear wife, Tracy; my supervisor Professor Geoff Harris for his patience and guidance; my parents for instilling the value of education; and friends and workmates for keeping the energy high. I love you all!’ 

Zambara said a quote by Professor Johan Galtung, acknowledged as the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies, summed up his thoughts on conflict resolution. ‘Tell me how you manage conflict, and I tell you how peaceful you are.’

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