Violence in the South African Transition

EVANS, Laura (2024). Violence in the South African Transition. In: SPEAR, Thomas, (ed.) Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Oxford University Press.

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South Africa’s negotiated transition (1990–1994), while often heralded as a “miracle,” was accompanied by a dramatic escalation of politically related violence in which more than fifteen thousand people died. A sober assessment of these years reveals that such violence was a central dynamic of the transition and its politics. The epicenters of violence were in Gauteng (then known as the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vaal, or PWV) and KwaZulu-Natal (then the province of Natal and the KwaZulu bantustan). Although patterns of conflict were locally and historically specific, being connected to conflicts over scarce resources, in these regions a war between Inkatha (supported by the state) and comrades aligned to the African National Congress and United Democratic Front (ANC, UDF; the dominant strand of the liberation movement) emerged as the central fault line of the violence. State-sponsored violence—much of which took place under the veil of private companies, covert operations, and bantustan regimes—played a central role in precipitating and aggravating political competition and violence, and the white-minority National Party (NP) regime, still in power, was thereby responsible for much of the violence of the period. It is also widely held that, whatever he claimed, the government of F. W. De Klerk had extensive knowledge of the “third force” covert operations that were waging violent attacks and fueling the conflict. Both the NP and the ANC, while publicly eschewing violent methods, used violence as a key element of their political strategy during the period of negotiations, even if they were not always able to control it. While the ANC’s role in aggravating the violence of this period has often been underplayed, historiography from the last decade has amended this perception.

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SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2024 10:18
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2024 09:27

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