UMTAPO was established in 1986 in response to the rise of internecine violence within the black community and the resultant division and intolerance that reared its ugly head. As a consequence, Umtapo engaged in youth and women's leadership training programmes, literacy and popular education, and information dissemination through publications and public for a for critical discourse.
In 1996, Umtapo worked with the South African Human Rights Commission and other organisations from the continent to develop a comprehensive Peace, Human Rights and Anti-Racism Education (PHARE) curriculum. This grew into a holistic liberatory programme to include training of teachers, learners, youth leaders, and education officials. The follow on effect was the establishment of Peace Afrika Youth Centres and Peace Afrika Youth Forums (PAYFs) by unemployed young activists in disadvantaged areas; Peace Clubs in secondary schools; and more recently, Children's Peace and Empowerment Forums (CPEFs) in primary schools; and Tertiary Peace Forums (TPFs) at universities.
Since its official opening in 1987, UMTAPO has recorded a number of unique and historical achievements, amongst them were:
In 1988, convening the 1st National Conference on Violence in South Africa under the title Stop the Killing ?
In 1990, being the 1st organisation to conduct adult literacy classes at the hostels in Umlazi
In 1991, convening the 1st National Literacy Conference in South Africa
In 1991, becoming the 1st South African organisation to be accepted as a member of the African Association for Literacy and Adult Education (AALAE)
In 1992, initiating the launch of the SA Association for Literacy and Adult Education, a national network led by and for the oppressed peoples of SA
In 1994, hosting the Assistant Secretary General of the OAU at a Conference on the Black Family which led to the establishment of UMTAPOs African Peace Education Programme
In 1995, becoming one of the founding organisations of CIVICUS, the world alliance for citizen participation
In 1997, being requested to host the CIVICUS Africa Secretariat which it did until 1999
In 1998, becoming the Southern Africa focal point for the Hague Appeal for Peace in preparation for the World Conference in the Hague
In 1998, implementing an innovative African Peace Education Programme which later translated into the Peace, Human Rights and Anti-Racism Education (PHARE) Programme
In 2002, having the UMTAPO peace and anti-racism education programme officially included in the provincial agenda of the Mpumalanga Department of Education
In 2010, having its PHARE programme in particular the establishment of Peace Clubs in Schools officially adopted by the Eastern Cape Department of Education
In 2012, initiating a global collaboration for peace and social activism with initial focal points in Northern Ireland, Netherlands, Kenya, and South Africa
In 2012, developing through theory and praxis, a unique Model for Child Participation