Beginning in July 1988 a programme called the Newick Park Initiative was launched in Cambridge, England, by Dr Michael Schluter, Director of the Jubilee Centre, to bring together key players from different places, especially South Africa, to make a contribution of reflection and initiative relating to the very vexed political situation of apartheid South Africa.
This was where Michael Cassidy first met Washington Okumu, an economist and international diplomat from Kenya, who had a great love and concern for South Africa, and who already knew many of its key players. Later on, as South Africa’s first democratic elections approached (1994), Okumu was encouraged by Schluter to respond to Michael Cassidy’s call for him to come and play a reconciling and facilitating role in getting South Africa’s key players into some sort of accord as to how to move forward peacefully into the much threatened election.
In March and April Okumu made several visits to South Africa, especially KwaZulu-Natal, where accompanied by Michael Cassidy he met numbers of key political leaders on different sides of the fence and forged significant relationships built extensively on those relationships already established in the Kolobe Lodge Dialogue Weekend meetings. Key linkages on these trips were to Mangosuthu Buthelezi (Inkatha Freedom Party), Nelson Mandela (African National Congress), Danie Schutte (cabinet minister responsible for the election), Jacob Zuma (then leader of the African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal), Roger Burrows (Democratic Party) as well as Frank Mdlalose who later became the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal.