Grassroot NGO’s reflect on crucial peacebuilding amidst a history of civil unrest and violence.

South African NGOs who have played an instrumental role in rebuilding peace and social cohesion following the July 2021 civil unrest report that dialogue circles play an important role in preventing future unrest and violence. The most recent crime statistics released by SAPS also reveal a concerning picture with 6200 murders reported and 15 000 women assaulted between January to March 2023.

RELEASE DATE: 25 July 2023, Johannesburg.

“Restorative justice and peacebuilding should not only be a response mechanism that is implemented after bouts of civil unrest. If we only take a ‘responsive’ approach, we will always be addressing the symptoms of the social inequalities and injustices that exist in our society,” says Lesley Ann van Selm, managing director of Khulisa Social Solutions. “What we need as a country is to implement a preventative approach that is inclusive and looks at the root causal factors of civil unrest and violence.”

“From interventions with 150 ex-offenders over the past year, we found that they have all been victims of abuse and violence themselves. This reveals that many men feel that they do not have a safe space to report their experiences or discuss their trauma with others. This often leads to a build up of anger and inadequate coping mechanisms which can sometimes lead to violent behaviour. During our dialogue circles, we aim to create these safe spaces for experience sharing and to discuss sensitive topics like individual trauma,” adds van Selm.

Khulisa has been working with these grassroot NGOs to capacitate facilitators in peace-making and mediation skills that take into account the unique social needs of each community. Facilitators from these NGOs share their thoughts on the need for continued dialogue circles: Tshilidzi Godfrey Mashamba, facilitators at Lion of Juda (NGO) Working with a frontline team, we can see that the is an ongoing need for peace making dialogue sessions in our community of Alexandra. We are still experiencing a broken society that needs healing
and many people resort to substance abuse, violence to resolve issues in their lives.

The community of Alexandra has limited access to social workers who offer psychosocial support. Training more
peace makers who will render peace making dialogue circles will be of great assistance in our community to restore peace, and a drug free and no violent society. Chris Ndlovu, facilitator at Thusong Youth Center I now hold a dialogue circle every Thursday with community members.

Different issues come up and
following groups discussions the feedback is always positive. Attendees state that due to the dialogue circle, they now have peace in their families, in their relationships and also within themselves. The dialogue session has helped them to heal from childhood traumatic experiences. Mandla Mnisi ex-offender and founder of Eagles of Hope (NGO) My mentor motivated me to give birth to Eagles of Hope where I started doing art and other courses in prison. Upon being released, I formed the group for teaching music, acting and dancing. When I was introduced to the dialogue circles it gave me a different view and helped me find my inner peace. After discovering how effective the dialogue circles worked for my anger, I thought that I should start sharing this experience with others as a way to process anger and look after mental health.

Through their work towards peacebuilding and restorative justice, Khulisa has been recognised locally and internationally. Within the past year, Khulisa has been awarded the Best Social Solutions Not-for-Profit 2023 at this years Global Excellence Awards. Founder and managing director, Lesley Ann van Selm was also awarded CEO Today Africa Award for her leadership in the peacebuilding and restorative justice space.

To find out more information on Khulisa Social Solutions and their work to capacitate NGOs with peacebuilding and mediation skills, visit or get in contact at

About us

Khulisa Social Solutions is a non-profit company that helps vulnerable children, youth, and communities unlock their potential and develop skills toward a sustainable future. 

It operates nationally, employs over 180 staff through 18 offices, and works in approximately 150 communities in collaboration with 350 NGO partners, impacting the lives of close to 200,000 people per annum.

Khulisa partners with national and local government departments, schools, correctional facilities, community leaders, corporates, thought leaders, academic institutions, and private companies. Khulisa’s internationally acclaimed and locally rewarded best practice programmes deliver positive and measurable impact with the main focus on youth and community development.

For more information, contact

Lesley Ann Van Selm | 082 601 2299 |  |