Confronting  Trauma & Violence

27 August 2021

“We need to take the trauma out of the therapy room and into the boardroom.”

Nomfundo Mogapi is a professional psychologist and the CEO of the Centre for Mental Wellness and Leadership. Through the discussion in session, she weaved together with the issues of trauma, violence and leadership. The complementarity of spiritual practices and western understandings of wellness were brought to the fore in the session, with an in-depth discussion on spirituality, land and healing from trauma.


Trauma in SA influences the functionality of SA. The interface between trauma and increased socio-economic issues contributes to the perpetuation of the status quo. Poverty and the need to get out of it has a sense of urgency attached to it, hence the violence we experience in communities. Nomfundo advocates for incorporating trauma into our policies, such that trauma should inform safety planning and even urban design.


Trauma causes a disconnect. As humans, we are a part of and one with nature. How we treat public space reflects unbelonging and our disconnect with nature. We experience trauma and nature experiences it too at the hands of human beings. We need to heal the physical land where lives were lost; where land was subject to overconsumption and exploitation through mining, where rape occurred during pillaging and land grabbing. The land itself needs to be cleansed as it has experienced trauma on various levels. The acknowledgement and incorporation of indigenous knowledge systems are integral to healing people and places but how do we cleanse as a collective? Nomfundo assures us that healing can happen over a short period of time even though it’s historical. We need to incorporate the historical tools of cleansing and healing, while also developing new tools of mapping trauma in places, to better understand the development contexts we work in.


African cosmology sees rivers as governed by the divine feminine. The state of our rivers and water pollution is a direct reflection of our relationship with women and the gender-based violence prevalent across the country. We need to take the healing conversation to where people are.


Trauma looks for a container, a witness and a tribe or home. Trauma is institutionalized and many institutions still dehumanize people and feed into woundedness and rage. The Centre for Mental Wellness and Leadership has a focus on supporting institutions through leadership. There are leaders who are trauma carriers as trauma gets stored in the body and people get restless. “We need trauma-informed leadership, where leaders have the ability to contain and transform trauma. It’s about influence. We are at war here. We need strategies to infiltrate the leadership to influence” the collective, communities and the workforce. We need to create a community of practice for healing in SA, that’s made up of traditional leaders, psychologists, development practitioners. This is the next struggle – the struggle for psychosocial justice.


Nomfundo Mogapi CEO and founder of the Centre for Mental Wellness and Leadership. She is the co-founder and Chair of the Mental Wellness Initiative (MWI). Ms. Mogapi is a clinical psychologist by training and has over 20 years of experience in the mental health, psychosocial and violence prevention sector.


Relevant session links: