The History of Prem Rawat in South Africa

May 26, 2023

Looking Ahead

On May 28, Prem Rawat will conclude his South African tour in Cape Town (where he began the tour) for an event with people who have learned the techniques of Self-Knowledge – a simple way to turn one’s attention from the outside world to the source of peace within.  WOPG has more details on the event here.

He will then travel to the West African city of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire for a similar event. Find the details of that event here.

As the following video submitted by enthusiasts in South Africa makes clear, excitement for all of his events has been palpable.

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The Backstory

Prem Rawat’s history with South Africa is a unique one. In 1972, as a 14-year old on a global speaking tour, he became one of the youngest people ever to be blacklisted from that country.

At that time, scheduled to visit several South African cities to talk about the possibility of all people experiencing personal peace, he was told by government officials – bound by their country’s apartheid policies – that his events would need to be racially segregated.

This was unacceptable to the 14-year old.

Explained Prem at the time, “I will not divide up my audience into two. I’m here for everybody. And whoever wants to hear me, they have to hear me.”

Even at 14, Prem Rawat’s recognition of the equality of all people, regardless of the color of their skin, led to him breaking many of the apartheid rules. In the minds of South African officials, people of Indian descent were considered “colored”. Indeed, even Prem riding in a car with white people or staying in the guest quarters of a house – not the servant’s quarters –  was strictly forbidden.

This did not sit well with him. Cognizant of the fact that the same lifeforce animated all people, regardless of their seeming differences, he treated everyone with the same love and respect – a point of view that was unacceptable to government officials.

Soon after Prem Rawat’s visa expired, he was blacklisted from South Africa, denied the opportunity to secure another visa for a return visit until apartheid ended in 1994, some 22 years later.

But that was then and this is now.

In time, things change – and often for the better. And the same holds true for South Africa. Through a series of bilateral and multi-party negotiations between 1990 and 1993, that country’s apartheid system was ended.

In 2014, Prem Rawat returned to South Africa and, during his tour, he addressed appreciative, mixed race audiences in Johannesburg.

A couple of years later, he returned to meet with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to discuss how South Africa could fully transition from apartheid into a peaceful nation.

The Rise of the Peace Education Program in Africa

Prem Rawat’s peace advocacy efforts in Africa continue having significant impact.

In the past 11 years, more than 300,000 people have participated in Prem’s Peace Education Program (PEP) across 80 countries, including 16 African nations. Administered by his non-profit organization, The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), the Peace Education Program is an innovative series of video-based workshops that help people discover their own inner strength and personal peace. It has been integrated into a wide range of settings, including high schools and universities, correctional institutions, rehabilitation centers and much more.

In South Africa alone, over 26,000 people have participated in the Peace Education Program, reporting profound benefits. For example, the Johannesburg Department of Social Development conducted an independent study on the program’s impact on people struggling to find housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, concluding that it enhanced self-awareness, tolerance, contentment and self-reliance.

Prem Rawat visited Zimbabwe for the first time in 2022 to meet with PEP participants at Harare Central Prison. The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) Commissioner-General MCN Chihobvu applauded the program, noting its positive impact on offenders, as well as staff.

Extending the Peace Education Program within our institutions has seen the transformation of lives, especially those who were treated as high-risk inmates,” he explained. “Similarly, some members of staff have also participated in the Peace Education Program, which has demonstrated to be highly regarded as a self-discovery and empowerment vehicle that can help in addressing social ills. The program is undeniably changing lives for the better.”

More than 3,200 people in Zimbabwe have now participated in the program, including hundreds of corrections officers. Based on the positive results, ZPCS has partnered with TPRF to expand the workshops to more facilities.

Over the last year, the program was offered in Namibia and Botswana for the first time after corrections officials learned from their colleagues in Zimbabwe about how it was helping improve attitudes and behaviors.

Food for People

Another groundbreaking initiative of Prem Rawat’s in Africa is the Food for People (FFP) program – one that provides nutritious meals, clean water, and educational opportunities to impoverished communities.

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Also sponsored by TPRF, in 2012, a FFP facility opened in the village of Otinibi, on the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana. Otinibi was chosen partly because of the hardship of its residents. Most of them were farmers, but due to poor soil conditions and unpredictable weather patterns, they were rarely able to grow and sell enough food to support their families. This facility, in partnership with the local Prembaf Ghana Foundation, serves an average of almost 13,000 meals per month, including meals delivered to the homes of up to 50 disabled or elderly adults. Students from two local schools come for daily meals. The Otinibi Basic school has now doubled its enrollment, recently reaching its capacity.

As a result of the vigor and good health resulting from the nutritious meals, students have begun to compete for the first time on a national level in sports like soccer and volleyball. Also, students are going on to higher education for the first time and crediting FFP with helping them succeed.

Since the first Food for People facility opened in 2006, the signature program has provided clean water and more than 5.2 million healthy meals to children and elderly adults in poverty-stricken areas of India, Ghana, and Nepal. Health has improved, school enrollment and achievement have skyrocketed, crime has dropped, and local economies have started to bloom.


A Brighter Future

Prem Rawat’s efforts in Africa continue with the ongoing humanitarian aid and the expansion of the Peace Education Program.

He regularly visits the continent, typically every year, to help people understand that personal peace is possible, regardless of the limiting circumstances in their life.

His recent tours in South Africa included meetings with a variety of Peace Education Program participants, key strategic partners from various sectors in the government, media, education, NGO’s and other influencers – many of whom were hearing  about Prem’s work for the first time.

In 2021, on behalf of his Foundation, Prem signed a  Memorandum of Understanding with the South Africa Department of Correctional Services to continue the expansion of the Peace Education Program across the country. In the wake of devastating floods in Durban, South Africa, he also met with officials and helped arrange for TPRF humanitarian aid to be delivered to victims, including emergency food, water, shelter and other supplies.

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Over the years, TPRF has provided more than $6 million in humanitarian aid grants to help people recover from disasters like this in 45 countries, including 11 nations throughout Africa.

Prem Rawat’s efforts have garnered coverage by some of the biggest media outlets in South Africa, including an interview on the Breakfast Show of the Jacaranda FM Radio Station in Johannesburg – the biggest independent radio station in the country. His two radio interviews  that day reached more than 15 million people.

In one of the many media interviews on that recent tour he was asked by one announcer, “Is there still more you can do?”

Prem’s reply? “I will try to do as much as I can do, because there is no stopping it. When you can bring a smile to people’s faces, bring peace to the heart that really deserves it, and joy to those people who have never experienced that joy. It’s a gift.”

As more information becomes available, will continue reporting on his South African adventures and, after that, wherever his 2023 world tour continues to take him.

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