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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 583

Paragraph Numbers 1 to 14

Volume 2

Chapter 7

Subsection 1

Volume TWO Chapter SEVEN

Political Violence in the Era of Negotiations andTransition, 1990-1994


1 The Commission had considerable success in uncovering violations that took place before 1990. This was not true of the 1990s period. Information before the Commission shows that the nature and pattern of political conflict in this later period changed considerably, particularly in its apparent anonymity. A comparatively smaller number of amnesty applications were received for this period. The investigation and research units of the Commission were also faced with some difficulty in dealing with the events of the more recent past.

2 Two factors dominated the period 1990–94. The first was the process of negotiations aimed at democratic constitutional dispensation. The second was a dramatic escalation in levels of violence in the country, with a consequent increase in the number of gross violations of human rights.

3 The period opened with the public announcement of major political reforms by President FW de Klerk on 2 February 1990 – including the unbanning of the ANC, PAC, SACP and fifty-eight other organisations; the release of political prisoners and provision for all exiles to return home. Mr Nelson Mandela was released on 11 February 1990. The other goals were achieved through a series of bilateral negotiations between the government and the ANC, resulting in the Groote Schuur and Pretoria minutes of May and August 1990 respectively. The latter minute was accompanied by the ANC’s announcement that it had suspended its armed struggle.

4 A long period of ‘talks about talks’ followed – primarily between the government, the ANC and Inkatha – culminating in the December 1991 launch of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). CODESA, which involved twenty different political parties and organisations, collapsed in disagreement over issues of majority rule and regional powers. In May 1992, talks resumed with CODESA II. However, barely a month later, the ANC withdrew in the wake of the Boipatong massacre of 17 June 1992 and embarked on a campaign against the remaining homeland governments. Talks resumed five months later, after the signing by the ANC, PAC and the government of a Record of Understanding.

5 The Record of Understanding marked a shift in the National Party (NP) government’s negotiating strategy. It abandoned its de facto alliance with the IFP, through which it had hoped to secure enough electoral support to force a power-sharing arrangement with the ANC. Instead, the ANC and the government now co-operated closely while the IFP aligned itself with a coalition of bantustan governments and elements of the white right wing. This latter grouping ultimately coalesced into the Concerned South Africans Group (COSAG) which, in July 1993, walked out of the talks and formed the Freedom Alliance. This development saw a further escalation in the level of violence. With the IFP’s chief negotiator threatening a civil war if the elections went ahead without the IFP, deaths from political violence in July and August 1993 soared to 605 and 705 respectively, compared to 267 in June 1993.

6 In December 1993, a Transitional Executive Council (TEC) was installed, composed of representatives of all parties to the negotiations process. Meanwhile, behindthe-scenes talks continued with the Freedom Alliance to secure its participation. This was achieved shortly before the 27 April 1994 election.

7 Of 9 043 statements received on killings, over half of these (5 695) occurred during the 1990 to 1994 period. These figures give an indication of violations recorded by the Commission during the negotiations process. They represent a pattern of violation, rather than an accurate reflection of levels of violence and human rights abuses. Sources other than the Commission have reported that, from the start of the negotiations in mid-1990 to the election in April 1994, some 14 000 South Africans died in politically related incidents. While Commission figures for reported violations in the earlier part of its mandate period are underrepresented in part because of the passage of time, they are under-reported in this later period because the abuses are still fresh in people’s memories and closely linked into current distribution of power.

8 The violence during the 1990s stemmed from intensification in the levels of conflict and civil war in KwaZulu/Natal. While the province had been plagued for five years by a low-level civil conflict, conflict intensified dramatically in the 1990s. The Human Rights Committee (HRC) estimates that, between July 1990 and June 1993, an average of 101 people died per month in politically related incidents – a total of 3 653 deaths. In the period July 1993 to April 1994, conflict steadily intensified, so that by election month it was 2.5 times its previous levels.

9 Moreover, political violence in this period extended to the PWV (Pretoria– Witwatersrand-Vereeniging) region in the Transvaal. The HRC estimates that between July 1990 and June 1993, some 4 756 people were killed in politically related violence in the PWV area. In the period immediately following the announcement of an election date, the death toll in the PWV region rose to four times its previous levels.

10 The escalation of violence coincided with the establishment of Inkatha as a national political party, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), in July 1990, and its attempts to develop a political base in the Transvaal. The development of self-defence units (SDUs) in largely ANC/UDF strongholds led to an escalation of violence in both provinces.

11 Many came to believe that a ‘hidden hand’ or ‘third force’ lay behind the random violence, which included military-style attacks on trains, drive-by shootings and a series of massacres and assassinations. The train violence swept the Rand from 1990 onwards. By June 1993 it had caused some 400 deaths and countless more injuries, and left thousands of commuters consumed with fear on a daily basis. Such attacks frequently generated further violence.

12 At this time, there was also a marked increase in attacks on police officers. Between July 1991 and June 1992, the HRC recorded a total of sixty-eight police officers killed. A further 200 deaths were recorded between July 1992 and June 1993.

13 Violence also arose from the continued use of lethal force in public order policing. The HRC estimated that killings by the security forces, primarily in the course of public order policing, numbered 518 between July 1991 and June 1993. In the first major incident, less than six weeks after President de Klerk’s speech, seventeen people died and 447 were injured when police fired without warning on a crowd of 50 000 protesters at Sebokeng. Other massacres occurred in Sebokeng in July and September 1990 and in Daveyton and Alexandra townships in March 1991.

14 This was also APLA’s most active period. A wave of military attacks was visited on largely civilian targets, primarily in the western and eastern Cape, as well as attacks on farmers in the Orange Free State.

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