An exploration and evaluation of mechanisms on the role of sport in post-conflict racial reconciliation and integration : the post-apartheid South African context
Sport has both uniting and dividing features, often manifesting contradictory outcomes in terms of conflict or co-operation. Sport is a social construct and its role and function depends largely on what society makes of it, and how it is consumed by society. If sport’s potential is to unfold, the dividing features should be guarded against and the desired positive effects must be furthered. The aim of this study is twofold; on the one hand, the study focuses on evaluating the post-apartheid South Africa’s experience, of reconciliation through Sport Intervention Programs (SIPs), and on the other hand, the study explores mechanisms through which sport can serve as a vehicle to integrate racialized South African youth identities with the aim of promoting, reconciliation and integration for change. The study identified 12 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that are facilitating grassroots sport initiatives that use sport as a platform to combat social issues in previously marginalised communities of the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Purposive sampling was used to identify12 focus group discussions, consisting of 10participants in each group, ranging from 14-20 years, totaling 100 youth as well as another group of 13 respondents for semi-structured interviews, ranging from 25-68 years old, which include sport managers, coaches/officials, role models, government and UN officials, who contributed to the SIPs and their organizations in different capacities. Both the discussion groups and face-to-face interviews were conducted on a voluntary basis. Thematic content analysis was carried-out to analyse the data. This study explored existing theories, literature, and good intervention practices, and has established the relative interlinkages between sport and peace-building, as pivotal to the ongoing scholarly debates in the field of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP). From the findings, reconciliation and integration through SIPs may require a unique method in the holistic approach for transformation and social change in post-1994. From the findings in this study, the SIPs’ effort and approaches highlighted a number of positive inroads. The majority of the discussion groups and face-to-face interviewees felt the desire to have a united and non-racial South Africa. Within the discussion group, the notion of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ emerged as a ‘counter discourse’, and, a reaction to the apartheid discourse ‘racial segregation’, both discourses found to have impacts on the youth identities. The youth participants also referred as ‘Born Frees’ are still deeply marked by their racialized past, but they also showed a drive to make a different present, and a new future. From the findings, the SIPs foci of learning by doing, such as team cohesion on the field, and peace education off the field were found instrumental in building relationship. Networking, non-violent conflict resolution, and collaboration for shared goals, which reduced, negative perceptions among the South African racialized youth, at personal and relational level. However, the structural and cultural dimensions require multiple changes at all societal levels. The interconnection of the hierarchies of change in relation to the program in-put, out-puts and outcomes, on how the attitudes and behaviours of the individual youth are expected to change by the SIPs, and how these personal changes are sought to change the structural, and cultural practices, within the programme design, monitoring and evaluation of the SIPs were found unclear, and under-developed. The reflexive learning within the current research process postulate that, first, conflict resolution, racial integration and reconciliation within the SIPs endeavors is characterized by a complex set of factors and dynamic forces on the ground such as race relations and social change. As such, a systems approach is necessary to approach this field in comprehensive manner. The present research study shows that a model is required that needs to integrate the various elements in a comprehensive fashion to promote reconciliation, conflict resolution, peace and development. Secondly, the SIPs may serve as a platform and provide contextual mechanism for conflict resolution, and this study discovered that the ‘theory of change approach’ is an effective tool to unpack the change process between the SIPs’ activities and its ultimate goal. Thirdly the genuine effort of SIPs and its NGOs in the lives of the future leaders is well articulated; however, they seem to confront a problem way bigger than their capacity, which involves power and massive resources. The fieldwork experience from the present study, commends the SIPs’ culture of networking, and collaboration can only be enhanced when it is framed by the ‘scaling-up’ strategy developed by Lederach et al. for wider social impact, and,sustainability. In light of the findings, while the above three imperatives considered as an original contribution to the existing knowledge in the field of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP), it also concluded by providing possible recommendations that may guide sport practitioners to effectively design, implement, monitor and evaluate programmes and the SIPs’ in post-apartheid South Africa, in Africa and beyond.