About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Violence: the Wider Picture

Changing Patterns of Violence

It is instructive to begin by comparing the violence of the 1980s and 1990s with that of the 1970s.

Between June 1976 and October 1977, 700 people died-an average of 44 people a month. From the upsurge in September 1984 until the end of 1989, the average monthly death toll was almost double-86. The violence of the 1980s was thus more intense than that of the 1970s. The 1990s have been even worse. In the whole of the period between September 1984 and the end of 1989-for more than five years-the monthly level of political fatalities exceeded 200 no more than four times. From December 1989 to May 1990-for six consecutive months-it was consistently above 200. In March 1990, for the first time ever, the level rose not only above 300 but also above 400-to 458. This was the month after Mr de Klerk deregulated black politics in his now-celebrated speech.

Although most of the deaths in the disturbances in Soweto and elsewhere in 1976 and 1977 were at the hands of the police, in the later 1980s and 1990s conflict between different groups of black people has been a major cause of fatalities. The Institute thus reported early in 1986 that 'attacks by some blacks against other blacks and conflict between different black groups accounted for an increasing proportion of fatalities as (1985) progressed, the proportion accounted for by security forces diminishing'. In 1985, security forces accounted for two thirds of fatalities and conflict within the black community for one third, but by 1987 the proportions were the other way round.

The action of the police in 1976 gave major impetus to the violence of the 1980s. Although the judicial commission of inquiry into the Soweto violence in 1976 (the Cillie Commission) found the shootings to have been justified, the present writer's research for a book on the Soweto upheavals led him to the conclusion that the rioting might not have erupted had the police not opened fire on a basically peaceful crowd of marching schoolchildren on 16th June.

Discussing that day in a newspaper article in February 1991, Mr Hani said:

'As usual in our country, if the police had not over-reacted that revolt would not have shaken the world. But the response of the police to a really peaceful demonstration by students-the violent response-spread to other parts of the country and impacted on the world. This was a turning point in terms of the militant struggle in our country. From then there was no looking back, we latched on. For the first time we had conditions where the young people were angry and where they had experienced the brutality and atrocities that had been perpetrated against them by the police and they were ready to join Umkhonto we Sizwe. Recruiting began to spread at a real pace now and we received more recruits in that year than we received in all the years when I had been in the country. Then the structures which we had built up inside the country began to spread rapidly and we stepped up recruiting, especially from the eastern Cape. There had been no cadres from the eastern Cape going out because of the distances but now they began to flood to Lesotho, coming from the eastern Cape, from the Free State, everywhere.'

Mr Hani was correct when he said the shootings were a 'turning point'. However, the consequences went beyond a greater influx of youth into Umkhonto we Sizwe. An equally important result was the birth of a new type of township youth, inside and outside the ANC's military formations. The explosive reaction of all these youngsters in 1976 was turned within a few years into the major revolutionary impulse, which, fuelled by steadily rising unemployment, characterised the ferocious 'people's war' of the 1980s and early 1990s. The influence of the South African Communist Party (SACP) appears to have been important here. Without it, an ANC official said, 'we would have become just a black consciousness party'.

In the last few years firearms have been used with increasing frequency in political violence. For example, it was reported in May 1993 that the number of autopsies performed in Durban on people who died of stab wounds dropped from 521 in 1989 to 366 in 1992, while the number of autopsies performed on victims of gunshot wounds increased from 354 to 1 109.

Police statistics were reported to show that altogether 777 people had been killed by AK47 assault rifles since 1988, 373 of them in the first nine months of 1992 alone. Between June 1992 and May 1993, 532 people were killed with AK47s, which were used in bank robberies, theft, and rape, as well as in political rivalry. The police said AK47s could be bought illegally for as little as R100, although one in good condition could fetch up to R2 000. They said the 891 AK47s seized in 1992 were a small proportion of the number of all such weapons in the country. The minister of law and order, Mr Hernus Kriel, said, 'In the beginning the ANC had AK47s. But Inkatha had spears and sticks and stones. So Inkatha started importing arms, and this started an arms race between the organisations to acquire more AK47s. Since then we've witnessed the growth of a web of arms smuggling. It's a major factor in the killings.'

Strategies of the 1980s and 1990s

The conflict among black people has its origins in strategies that were adopted in the 1980s in efforts to force business, the government, the media, and the international community to pay attention to the aspirations of people who had no parliamentary franchise. Their prospects of getting one did not seem very good either, because the government was then still committed to the policy of removing the citizenship of all Africans and hiving them off through the homelands into a separate constitutional orbit. In accordance with this policy, Africans were excluded from the tricameral parliament whose establishment was put to white voters for their approval in a referendum in November 1983. The Institute warned white voters against the exclusion of Africans. A month before the referendum, it brought out a special edition of Race Relations News. The front-page headline over a statement about the new tricameral constitution by the Institute's then president was 'Schlemmer warns on stability.' In the same issue the then chairman of the Institute's national executive, Mr Ernie Wentzel, wrote an article on the new constitution headed 'A prescription for creating conflict.'

The Institute warned not only of the consequences of government policies, but also of the consequences of some of the strategies employed in opposition to those policies from 1983 onwards. It in fact warned of the build-up of conflict within the black community from the start. It noted that the use of coercion and of strategies to make the country ungovernable was causing massive disruption to the lives of 'ordinary township residents'. At the same time, however, the Institute urged the government to extend the range of democratic choices open to black people by lifting the bans on the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), and other organisations to enable them to enter the 'political market-place'. In a paper by the present writer published in November 1984, the Institute also said political prisoners should be released and political exiles allowed to return home, subject to their renunciation of violence. The paper, Towards a Climate for Negotiation, said:

'No legitimate and lasting solution to South Africa's problems can be found outside structural political change or without some sort of national constitutional conference or equivalent process. Sooner or later the pressure for such a conference will no longer be avoidable. As a first step towards the negotiation on which structural political change must be based, democratic political opportunities within the country need to be widened. Revoking the bannings on political organisations created by black people is the single most effective step that can be taken to initiate this process.'

The Institute's warnings, if anything, were understatements. The government finally broke with its earlier policies on 2nd February 1990, but the resistance strategies adopted in the 1980s continued into 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993.

Boycotts and Stayaways

Consumer, rent, and school boycotts were prominent among these strategies, along with political stayaways from work. Unlike in Soweto in 1976, when strong-arm tactics by militant youths were also used but subsequently repudiated, coercion to enforce compliance with the wishes of political activists was not only widespread in the 1980s and into the 1990s but also a regular feature of the political boycotts and stayaways almost from the moment they began. General 'work stayaways' were sometimes enforced by youths manning barricades, digging up streets, and attacking buses and taxis.

Within a month of the outbreak of violence in September 1984, reports began to come in of schoolchildren being ordered out of class by members of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Congress of South African Students, of gangs of youths building barricades in the townships to stop people from going to work, and of activists throwing petrol bombs at the police. At a meeting on 29th October 1984 called by the UDF at the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, one speaker told schoolchildren who wrote matric that they might have police protection while doing so, but there would be no police protection when they went home afterwards. On 4th November 1984 Sowetan Sunday Mirror ran an editorial expressing the fear that a stayaway planned for the following two days would, like the previous one, be enforced by coercion and lead, in the newspaper's phrase, to black-on-black violence. People were being dragged 'screaming into the struggle', the newspaper wrote. After the stayaway 16 black consciousness groups met to discuss the problem of coercion. Leaders of the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) said that the stayaway had alienated and antagonised a sizeable part of the working class. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) also criticised the stayaway on the grounds that the organisers had employed intimidation and violence against blacks.

The mid 1980s in fact saw well-nigh desperation among black leaders about conflict within black society. Although there was some mention of covert right-wing forces, leader writers on black newspapers and black opinion-makers seemed to believe that the main problem was intolerance and political rivalry within the black community. 'The stoning and burning of people is becoming almost fashionable among blacks', said an editorial in the Sowetan on 12th April 1985.

Various liberal groups were aware of all this and even held meetings to discuss it. In the end they decided, in effect, to turn a blind eye to these danger signals nine years ago. The thrust of the meetings was instead to blame the police for all the violence. Thus were sown the seeds of the 'third force' theory.

The flavour of the coercion used to enforce boycotts and stayaways emerges from these few examples:

Ø. four men between the ages of 34 and 63 were hauled in front of a 'people's court' at three o'clock one morning in Soweto after ignoring a stayaway call which they had been told was optional. They were sentenced to 500 lashes each, stripped naked in front of ten-year-olds, spreadeagled over a drum, and flogged. Some people who did not support the stayaway had their ears cut off;

Ø. a man in the Orange Free State was forced to swallow a bottle of tablets he had bought from a pharmacy during a consumer boycott. He died of the overdose;

Ø. in one township, a mother who bought material for her daughter's wedding dress during a consumer boycott was forced to cut it into little pieces; and

Ø. for allegedly breaking a consumer boycott a young mother in the eastern Cape was stabbed at a bus shelter and her baby flung to the ground.

Incidents such as these appear to be the tip of an iceberg. A public opinion survey commissioned by the Institute in 1991 showed that a third of black adults in urban areas answered 'yes' to the question: 'Have you in the past year been forced to take part in a consumer boycott or a stayaway?' At first sight, a third may not seem a large number, but it translates into hundreds of thousands of people and is indeed a high figure given the repeated claim that boycotts and stayaways are voluntary. Two thirds of urban black people claiming to support Azapo or the IFP or even the National Party (NP) said that threats had been used against them, their families or property, to stop them paying rent or service charges or for electricity. Four out of every five people who support Azapo or the IFP claimed to have been forced to take part in boycotts and stayaways.

This coercion, and resistance to it, both extending over several years, may be part of the reason for conflict between supporters of these organisations and supporters of organisations calling for boycotts and stayaways. It may also be part of the reason why hostel residents have become involved in violence, a point to which we will return below.

In this climate of coercion it is impossible to determine how much real support there is for boycotts and stayaways. One of the largest stayaways was an anti-VAT stayaway of 4th and 5th November 1991. It was claimed that 3,5m workers-a quarter of the total economically active population of the country-voluntarily supported it. The claim is partly contradicted by some of the instructions issued. Schoolchildren were thus said to be 'exempt' from the stayaway and told to wear school uniform or carry timetables for identification purposes. Why they should need exemption from action that was said to be voluntary was not explained. Teachers were told to request letters from their headmasters, but the purpose of the letters was not explained. Nor was it stated to whom they had to be shown or why. Committees organising the stayaway apparently agreed that doctors and nurses could go about their normal duties for its duration. Again, the need for the agreement of these committees was not explained.

Any one of a number of reasons could explain why so many people were absent from work on this and other occasions, among them:

Ø. genuine support for the anti-VAT campaign;

Ø. intimidation occurring during the stayaway;

Ø. fear resulting from threats to lives and property shortly before the stayaway;

Ø. experience or knowledge of past coercion; and

Ø. lack of transport (itself possibly the result of fear).

Lack of transport was apparently one of the reasons why so many people were absent from work during a stayaway on 3rd and 4th August 1992. It is probable that many owners and/or drivers of black minibus taxis were themselves sympathetic to the stayaway. It is also possible that many stopped their services because of fear. In some cases intimidation is obvious-burning barricades across roads, for example. But there are other, easier, less obvious ways of ensuring compliance. For example, a stayaway enforcer needs only to stroll casually past a taxi driver and show him a box of matches. The driver's imagination and his memory of necklace executions in newspaper photographs or even on television will do the rest. He will also undoubtedly tell his colleagues and friends about the threat-and so help the process of intimidation, unnoticed by the media or even trained United Nations observers.

Another example of how coercion used over a long period can inculcate feelings of fear appears in bond boycotts launched in apparent protest against high interest rates charged by financial institutions on home loans. These boycotts have frightened off some of the banks and building societies by putting the security of their investments at risk, so helping to slow down the rate of housing construction in black townships. To discourage repossession and resale of houses in respect of which mortgage bond repayments have fallen behind, tyres have sometimes been placed upon the roofs of these houses, with the result that no new occupants dare move in, for the tyres represent an unmistakable threat to any would-be new householder.

Like the example of the box of matches shown to the taxi driver, this highlights what may be a very important aspect of intimidation. It does not need actual threatening behaviour or even threatening words, but merely the quiet display of recognised symbols. Hundreds of black people have been necklaced to death on suspicion of being 'collaborators', 'sellouts', 'informers', and the like, sometimes by frenzied mobs, sometimes on the sentence of self-styled 'people's courts'-for, while the government has stopped executing people, political activists have not. Use of the necklace dropped dramatically after a nation-wide state of emergency was declared in June 1986, only to increase again in 1990 and yet again in 1992. It has replaced the gallows as South Africa's main deterrent.

The initial investment in terror pays off, because people learn to behave in ways expected of them. Knowledge within the community of what happened in the past is sufficient to ensure compliance in the present, and all that is required is a gentle reminder. The quintessence of terror thus involves no violence at all.

In some places localised reigns of terror may keep people permanently cowed. Hostel residents, however, have the advantage that they can use their hostels to mobilise resistance. Professor Lawrence Schlemmer has observed that township residents opposed to mass action would be 'too cautious or fearful to resist'. He adds: 'Migrant workers living in cohesive, socially separated groups, however, are not exposed to the same constraints. Among them mass action will lead to counter-reaction.'

Campaigns Against Black Local Authorities

Although the outbreak of violence in Sebokeng in September 1984 occurred during a protest against rent increases, rent and servicecharge boycotts have long been more than protests by poor communities against increased tariffs. When increases were suspended in Vaal Triangle townships in 1984, the Vaal Civic Association declared, 'The scrapping of the rent increases is not enough to defuse the situation. Unrest will flare up again unless the council resigns.' Rent boycotts were indeed part of a campaign against black local authorities (BLAs) spearheaded by civic associations affiliated to the UDF. Initially, in 1983, campaigns against BLAs were a reflection of black anger at being fobbed off with local, rather than parliamentary, representation. They took root amid poor living conditions in the country's black townships and included protest against these conditions. The campaigns were, however, also part of an overall strategy to achieve the collapse of apartheid by rendering black areas ungovernable-a strategy pursued by the UDF since its formation in 1983. In 1990 the campaigns were stepped up, despite moves towards national negotiations and non-racial local government.

Black local authorities have long been a source of controversy. Some groups believed in using the various township authorities as a means of improving the lot of township dwellers. Others contended that apartheid could be opposed effectively only by refusing to participate in any of its structures. Like homeland administrations, members of BLAs were seen by many people as 'puppets' and 'collaborators'. As it turned out, BLAs on the whole were ineffective in opposition to apartheid. Many of them were inefficient, even corrupt, and unpopular. However, whereas in 1976/77 the Soweto Urban Bantu Council had been a target of ridicule, now ridicule was replaced by petrol bombs.

Black local authority elections in November and December 1983 were accompanied by coercion on both sides. Householders claimed that councillors tried to secure their votes by threatening to evict them from their houses if they did not comply, while the government claimed there had been 'considerable intimidation' to keep people away from the polls. In Soweto and Port Elizabeth the homes of councillors and/or election candidates were petrol-bombed. From 1984 to the present, black councillors have repeatedly been among the victims of intimidation and violence.

For example, between January 1990 and February 1991 there were at least 195 attacks on black councillors. Sixteen councillors were killed in the 18 months between January 1990 and June 1991. Between August 1990 and February 1991, altogether 358 councillors resigned, 85% saying they had been intimidated into doing so.

The first identified victim of a necklace execution is thought to have been Mr Tamsanqa Kinikini, a member of the black town council in the township of KwaNobuhle in the eastern Cape outside Uitenhage. He had evidently become a hated figure among some of the people there because he was believed to have been involved in corruption and violence. He was hacked and burnt to death a day or two after the police had shot dead some 20 people on 21st March 1985 during a protest march. In addition to Mr Kinikini, three of his sons, aged 13, 20, and 22, his nephew aged 18, and a 20-year-old friend were attacked and killed. Before he died, Mr Kinikini shot another son to prevent his also being hacked to death.

Newspapers said of the killings that they were 'becoming the standard form of punishment meted out to residents believed to be "working for the system"'. Two men, one aged 21 and the other 24, were hanged in September 1987 after being found guilty of the Kinikini murders. During the trial it was stated that a mob had set fire to a mutilated corpse so that a television crew could film them. The court was told that the mob danced around the flaming body chanting and grinning and poking it with sticks while the television camera rolled. One of the accused said in evidence that the television crew had arrived after one of the victims had been killed and burnt, so the body was then doused with petrol and set alight and this action was filmed by the camera crew.

By May 1992, seven years after the Kinikini killings, necklace executions had claimed more than 500 victims. One of those necklaced that month was Mr Esau Mahlatsi, former mayor of Lekoa, which includes the township of Sebokeng, where violence first erupted in September 1984.

The campaign to destabilise black local government has been successful. It has also bred a violent backlash and helped to bring the IFP into urban conflict, because many councillors joined the IFP in the belief that it could protect them. In February 1991, the Sowetan reported that jubilant IFP supporters welcomed councillors with 'gunshot' salutes at a rally of some 35 000 people, some of them 'heavily armed with an assortment of traditional weapons', addressed by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Soweto. The newspaper said that Chief Buthelezi had assured the councillors of support-'something they have been yearning for for some time'. The following month a senior provincial official with IFP links said, 'It has taken a long time, but now the message is clear. If the ANC carries on with its campaign it will meet organised resistance.' An IFP official, Mr Musa Myeni, said that if councillors joined the organisation 'members of Inkatha in their area will not fold their arms when they are attacked'. Mr Chris Hani later told the South African Institute of Race Relations:

'We moved out to attack the institutions of white minority rule During this phase many councillors were killed Inkatha moved in by [recruiting] councillors. An attack on councillors came to be seen as an attack on Inkatha.'

Campaigns Against Policemen

In September 1984 the ANC declared that 'we [ie black South Africans] must be impossible to control'. A Radio Freedom broadcast by the ANC from Addis Ababa on 6th September 1985 bore the headline 'Let the people's war engulf the entire country.' It said that 'police and soldiers must be killed even when they are at their homes, and irrespective of whether they are in uniform or not'. The following month the then president of the ANC, Mr Oliver Tambo, was reported as having said that the intensification of the fight against apartheid would inevitably involve further violence against black councillors and policemen.

Although most of the policemen who have been killed and injured since 1983 were black municipal policemen, all members of the police force, black and white, including policemen in the homelands, have been targets of attack. The South African Police's record of assault on political detainees and criminal suspects, of unprovoked shootings and other aggression, is well documented, notably by the Institute. The poor reputation of the police helped to obscure the emergence of this new aspect of political violence-the attacks on the police. During campaigns of popular mobilisation, violent confrontation has been sparked off sometimes by the police, sometimes by others. Police have also been attacked while off duty and their homes have been petrol-bombed.

The killing of policemen, with their record of violence and aggression in enforcing racial laws and suppressing dissent, would be seen by many as a form of 'just war'. It is necessary, however, to point to the consequences of such a notion. One of them is the very breakdown of order which the government is now expected to restore-even though there has been a steady increase in the number of policemen killed. In 1987 the number of policemen killed was 67, but in 1992 altogether 226 policemen were killed, 96 of them in political violence. By the end of the fourth week in May 1993 another 81 had been killed, bringing the total since July 1983 to 953. According to the minister of law and order, Mr Hernus Kriel, policemen were killed at the rate of one a month in the 1970s, two a month in the 1980s, 13 a month in 1991, and 19 a month in 1992.

In March 1993, Mr Hani told the Institute that 'many policemen' had been killed when 'we moved out to attack the institutions of white minority rule'. However, after the 'stopping of armed struggle we have appealed to people to stop killing the police'. Also in March 1993, it was reported that the Goldstone Commission had found involvement by the Azanian People's Liberation Army (Apla), military wing of the PAC, in at least 15 attacks on policemen. The police deaths thus cannot all be blamed upon any one organisation or the strategy of making the country ungovernable, especially at a time when Apla was saying 'the South African Police and the security forces are still our targets and we are hitting them at will'. It is nevertheless reasonable to conclude that the revolutionary thrust of earlier years and the impetus of earlier calls for the assassination of policemen and of councillors had not run out.

People's War

In May 1985 Mr Thabo Mbeki, a senior ANC official and now head of the organisation's international affairs function, urged on Radio Freedom that the enemy must be attacked on all fronts, and underground units spread to every factory, mine and farm, every school, and every village. Referring to 'the enemy,' he said: 'We will reply to its reactionary violence with revolutionary violence.' Later that month Mr Tambo broadcast a call on 'our people in the bantustans to isolate and destroy the Pretoria puppets'.

The report of the ANC's commission on strategy and tactics at the organisation's national consultative conference in Kabwe (Zambia) in June 1985-attended by delegates from both inside and outside South Africa-said that the homelands should clearly 'also be the targets of our movement's efforts to render South Africa ungovernable'. Their governments should be overthrown with a view to 'transforming these areas into bases for the advancement of people's war'.

A great many of the 250 delegates at the Kabwe conference were from the post 1976 generation, and the conference decided to authorise Umkhonto we Sizwe to strike at 'soft' (civilian) targets as well as to intensify 'people's war'. Later in 1985 Mr Tambo told the foreign affairs committee of the British House of Commons that 'We are reaching a level of conflict where the innocent are hit. It is unavoidable. Now there is going to be more bloodshed than ever before.'

The people's war was seen as all-embracing. A Radio Freedom broadcast in December 1986 urged that the masses should fight 'in every way possible using Molotov cocktails, spears, sticks, petrol bombs, and small arms seized from whites'. Other forms of struggle should also be used: 'We are talking about rent strikes, we are talking about bus boycotts, we are talking about the overthrow of the township councils of the puppets and the creation of people's organs of power, people's courts and so on. All these various elements of the struggle help to make up the total aggregate of a people's war.'

To what extent were broadcasts and policy decisions translated into action? In June 1985 it was reported that about 80 attacks by Umkhonto we Sizwe since the Nkomati Accord showed that the ANC had demonstrated its capacity to maintain an armed presence in South Africa without bases in neighbouring states. Simple military training was being provided within the country, the speed of reaction to internal political events showing the extent to which internal guerrillas operated on their own initiative. An ANC official was quoted at the end of the year as saying that 'our guerrilla presence inside South Africa is organic in that our fighters are self-sustaining'.

At the end of 1986 the ANC was claiming that about 50 trained Umkhonto guerrillas were returning to South Africa every month, while 'well-placed sources in the front-line states' said that about 500 fully trained ANC men were operational in South Africa, mainly in training roles, providing skills and guidance to young black militants.

In a speech in London, Mr Joe Slovo, who preceded Mr Hani as general secretary of the SACP and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe and is now national chairman of the SACP and a senior office-bearer in the ANC, said that 'mass political struggle, coupled with an intensification of revolutionary violence, remains the imperative'. A journalist who later disclosed that he had been working clandestinely for the ANC wrote that the 'revolutionary forces' of which the ANC spoke 'comprised not only itself, the SACP, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, but also a large number of other organisations inside the country'. Mr Tambo said that the ANC would have to have its own 'underground structures within the UDF' to give it 'the correct guidance'.

The 'people's war' involved mobilising youth-described by Mr Tambo as 'young lions'-and bringing education to a standstill. Black youths have remained politically fired up since the Soweto revolt against Bantu education in particular and apartheid in general. Determined that they will not live out their lives under the system of apartheid in the way that so many of their parents did, black youth are not only prepared to die for the struggle, as hundreds if not thousands have done, some are also prepared to kill for it.

The rate of growth of the South African economy-an annual average of some 6% during the 1960s-halved in the 1970s and halved again in the 1980s. By the end of that decade, only about 125 of the 1 000 young people joining the labour market each day were finding jobs in the formal sector of the economy. There was accordingly no shortage of frustrated youngsters willing to be mobilised.

In a broadcast on 12th September 1986 Mr Hani praised the youth for 'carrying out aspects of the people's war' by 'clearing our townships of collaborators' and 'puppets and agents of the regime'. Another broadcast that month hailed the closure of more than 20 black schools in the Transvaal and the eastern Cape as 'another defeat' for the 'enemy'. The broadcast said: 'If need be, let Botha close all black schools in the country.' Necklace victims included black schoolboys who wrote their matric exams in apparent defiance of boycotts.

In an editorial in 1990 the black Sunday newspaper City Press blamed 'the youth in our society' for their 'political immaturity' in introducing 'the necklace method of killing' and going on the 'rampage, stoning and burning houses belonging to rival activists'.

The youth may indeed have done all this for nearly a decade, but they were encouraged to do it by adults. In 1986, for example, the Sunday Times of London reported that the then general secretary of the ANC, Mr Alfred Nzo, had said that 'collaborators with the enemy' must be eliminated. The paper went on: 'Asked if this included necklacing, Nzo nodded emphatically. "Whatever the people decide to use to eliminate those enemy elements is their decision. If they decide to use necklacing, we support it".'

In an article in which he refers to necklace killings and to fear of 'comrades' in the townships, Mr Joe Latakgomo, former editor of the Sowetan and later senior assistant editor of The Star, wrote: 'The earlier mobilisation of our youth against "collaborators" spawned this culture, which will take generations to eliminate.'

In July 1989, six months before Mr Mandela was released from prison, a meeting of the ANC, the UDF, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Lusaka decided to promote an 'upsurge' of 'volcanic material' and ensure 'that our programme of action is capable of firing up the imagination of the people and building up action to increasingly higher levels'.

Political violence as measured by monthly fatalities had been in double digits for most of 1987 and 1988 and for all but one month in the first half of 1989. In August that year monthly fatalities entered triple digits and by the end of May 1993, more than three and a half years later, had not once dropped to double figures again. In December 1989, the number of political fatalities climbed to nearly 300, for the first time ever. This sustained upsurge in violence may be partly the result of decisions taken in Lusaka.

At the end of 1989 a 'conference for a democratic future' held at the University of the Witwatersrand decided to intensify the struggle against homeland administrations and black local authorities. In March and April 1990 various newspapers announced the collapse of the homelands as violence flared in Bophuthatswana, Gazankulu, Lebowa, Venda, and the Ciskei. The numbers of fatalities in the four constitutionally separate homelands (the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and the Ciskei) increased from zero in the first three months of 1989 to 53 in the first three months of 1990. In January 1991 the ANC said that it would hit Bophuthatswana hard. Campaigns to destabilise Bophuthatswana and the Ciskei were launched in 1991 and 1992.

Consequences of People's War

These coercive strategies, intensified struggles, assassination campaigns, mass actions, and volcanic upsurges of fired-up people have had two consequences. The one is that they have got out of control. As Mr Mandela said in March 1992, it is difficult to make young ANC members understand a need for change after they had been 'told to make the country ungovernable'. The campaign to make South Africa ungovernable may not have succeeded universally and it may or may not have been subsequently abandoned, but it has succeeded beyond expectation in some parts of the country.

The other consequence of these strategies is that they have provoked violent backlashes from at least some of their targets and set off a vicious circle of attack and counter-attack. In boycotts and stayaways black people were incidental victims of violence; in the ungovernability strategy they were high on the list of intended targets. The people's war was partly directed at the state but it was also a declaration of war against sections of the black community, some of whom, however, fought back.

The shift from 'armed struggle' to 'people's war' was of crucial importance. As Mr Tambo explained, the people's war involved the masses 'rather than an army with guerrillas' in 'popular revolutionary action'. There was some doubt at the time within the ANC as to whether the ANC 'had the local organisational resources to remain in control of the forces it would unleash'. Sending trained squads of insurgents to plant limpet mines or car bombs is one thing. Urging the masses as a whole, and angry youth in particular, to a no-holds-barred people's war is quite another-especially when, as an ANC office-bearer subsequently said with reference to the post 1976 recruits, they were less disciplined than earlier ones and 'the only thing they wanted was to carry a gun'. Disciplined violence is replaced by random violence. Indeed, where armed struggle implies command structures (which can, and indeed, did suspend the armed struggle in the agreement between the ANC and the government recorded in the Pretoria Minute of 6th August 1990), people's war unleashes forces which have no command structures to control them or curtail them. In terms of casualties, the armed struggle of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s was a minor affair compared with the violence unleashed by the people's war of the mid 1980s. Thus, in the nine years up to the end of 1985, an annual average of 18 people (including civilians, security personnel, and insurgents) were killed in the 'armed struggle', whereas fatalities on all sides since January 1985 are running at an annual average in excess of 1850-more than 100 times the rate in 'armed struggle'.

Paradoxically, however, the people's war attracted less attention and criticism. The killing of innocent civilians by limpet mines in such places as shopping centres in white areas generated massive and usually adverse publicity. By contrast, Institute research shows that on many occasions attacks on black councillors attracted no press attention at all, still less criticism, even though the victims were sometimes their wives or children. Because most of its targets were black, the people's war could be waged almost unnoticed by the white community.

After political fatalities soared in March 1990 to above both 300 and 400 for the first time ever, the Institute predicted that if violence continued at its higher levels the year would be the most violent in the country's history. Just as the Institute's warnings of the build-up of tension in Soweto schools prior to the explosion on 16th June 1976 proved correct (although they fell on deaf ears) the fear about 1990 was right-3 699 people died. At the time, however, rightly or wrongly the Institute suspected that the government tried sometimes to play down the political violence and to dismiss the revolutionary language sometimes used by political leaders as 'rhetoric'. The Institute had the impression, admittedly subjective, that at least some sections of the white population did not want to confront the problem of worsening violence for fear of damping the euphoria in the first few months after Mr de Klerk's speech of 2nd February.

When the ANC agreed in August that year to suspend armed struggle, there was speculation in the press that the government wanted the organisation to go further. Although apparently no government spokesman said so in as many words, several different newspapers reported government sources as wanting the ANC also to suspend mass mobilisation, which the government was said to regard as 'disguised violence'.

After the talks, the ANC said in an advertisement that suspending the armed struggle meant that the organisation 'will not carry out any further armed actions and related activities such as the infiltration of armed cadres and weaponry'. The advertisement added that the 'armed struggle has not been abandoned' and that 'Umkhonto we Sizwe has not been dissolved.' Under a heading 'mass action continues' it said 'mass struggles have to continue in all spheres of our lives to achieve our objective of a united non-racial democratic and non-sexist society'.

When the government imposed a localised state of emergency in 1985 and a nationwide emergency in 1986, it did so less because of armed struggle launched from neighbouring states than because of internal mass mobilisation by the still-banned ANC and its internal allies in the UDF. As the ANC made clear in the advertisements, however, it did not regard the lifting of the banning order on itself on 2nd February 1990 as a reason to abandon mass action strategies. Had it done so, it might have alienated some of its supporters, notably among the youth, especially those without jobs or much prospect of finding them, because of lack of education, or low economic growth, or racial discrimination on the part of employers, or all three.

Mass action continued into 1991, 1992, and 1993. The ANC's consultative conference in December 1990 resolved that the following year would be 'the year of mass action for the transfer of power to the people'. In November 1991 mass action culminated in the deaths of about 100 people in the anti-VAT stayaway. Opening the ANC's policy conference in May the following year, Mr Mandela said negotiations would in future be coupled with mass action as a 'deadlock-breaking mechanism' and to compel the government to transfer power to the people. Speaking at the funeral on 29th June 1992 of 37 victims of the Boipatong massacre, Mr Hani warned that mass action would involve a 'fight to the finish until we defeat De Klerk'.

At about the same time, after the Convention for a Democratic South Africa reached deadlock, the ANC/SACP/Cosatu alliance launched a programme of 'rolling' mass action designed to bring about the downfall of the government. In the words of one official,

'What we are talking about now is a spiral, of building up our forces from about a million in the build-up phase to the active involvement of 10 million in phase 4. We are looking at the possibility of the Leipzig option. The decision is that we now utilise mass action until we reach the stage where De Klerk is propelled out of the exit gate.'

In July the same year Mr Mandela was reported as having said that the people of Africa would make Iran's Islamic revolution a model for their own revolutionary action.

The ANC condemned necklacing in 1992 and also stated that the killing of policemen would play into the hands of the right wing, while Mr Mandela stated that the objective of the renewed mass action campaign launched that year was not insurrection. But at the time of writing it was not clear whether the people's war against collaborators or the campaign against black local authorities and certain homelands had been called off. A prominent ANC leader in Natal, Mr Harry Gwala, said in August 1992 that mass action should be intensified with a view to making the country more ungovernable than it was in the state of emergency years. Even before the march on Bisho, capital of the Ciskei, on 7th September 1992, which culminated in the killing of 28 ANC supporters by Ciskei security forces-who were subsequently indemnified against prosecution-some ANC officials said the organisation would continue to make the Ciskei ungovernable. The national executive committee of the ANC had indeed published a document endorsing proposals for the intensification of mass action, focused, inter alia, on Bophuthatswana, the Ciskei, KwaZulu, and QwaQwa. Subsequent to the Bisho shootings the general secretary of the ANC, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, said: 'We are determined to cleanse this country. After Gqozo we are going for you Mangope; after Mangope we are going for you Buthelezi.'

The Cycle of Attack and Counter-attack

The murderous cycle of attack and counter-attack to which reference has already been made dates back to August 1976 in Soweto, to the clashes between residents of the Mzimhlope hostel and township youths during a stayaway. These clashes have sometimes been poorly reported. A group called the Independent Board of Inquiry issued a booklet which said that the issue on that occasion was 'what hosteldwellers described as their right to refuse to participate in a work stayaway'. On the day of the stayaway, the booklet says, 'youths taunted the men on their way to work' while in the 'evening, when the hostel residents disembarked from Mzimhlope station, they had to run the gauntlet of residents'. By the time the men reached the hostel, three sons of a resident were dead and by the next morning 48 people, mostly residents, were dead. In evidence submitted to the Cillie Commission, the Institute described how the hostel residents had gone on the rampage after students had set fire to their hostel. The commission found that youths had spread a rumour among the hostel residents that some of their fellow hostellers were being assaulted at the station on their way back from work (which had happened on a previous occasion). When the one group of hostellers rushed to their colleagues' assistance, the hostel was set on fire. When the hostellers returned they attacked the youths, allegedly with police encouragement. A hostel resident was sprinkled with petrol, which was ignited. All of this the booklet reduces to a 'taunt'. Peace was restored in this area by the end of 1976, but ten years later conflict between residents of this hostel and their neighbours broke out again. It continued into the 1990s.

Conflict also erupted between militant youth and hostel residents in Cape Town at the end of 1976. Some of the youngsters raided a shebeen in one of the hostels in the Nyanga township. Hostel residents retaliated, storming into the streets, burning houses, and attacking people with spears, knives, knobkerries, rocks, iron bars, axes, and other weapons. Five thousand people fled Nyanga to seek sanctuary in other townships and in white suburbs. Eighty-one houses were destroyed and 94 extensively damaged when hostellers set them on fire. In reprisal, five hostel buildings were burnt down. More than a hundred people were seriously injured, and a police witness later told the Cillie Commission that 13 black people had been shot dead by the police in these December clashes, while 23 had died when black people fought each other. Some township residents said the number of deaths would have been higher had the police not intervened. Others accused the police of preventing householders from defending their homes against the hostellers and of assisting the hostellers to attack.

The incidents in 1976 were harbingers of things to come: a backlash by hostel residents against militant youth; retaliation out of all proportion to the scale of attack; allegations of police involvement on one side; and the momentum which the cycle of attack and counter-attack appears to have developed.

The fighting does not necessarily take a party-political form. Attackers and counter-attackers may not be supporters of political organisations, and even if they are, they may not be under the control of leaders of these organisations. The backlash against coercion may sometimes be a manifestation of ordinary people acting violently in a pre-emptive, retaliatory, or aggressive fashion.

For example, in 1985 it was reported that three pupils at a secondary school in Soweto had been kidnapped and beaten by a group of more than 100 'Russians' (tribesmen) in revenge for a raid on them by students who assaulted a man they suspected of stabbing a colleague. The Sowetan reported, 'This is the first time residents have taken action against continuing raids on them by students in Soweto.' It was also reported that members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) had gone on the 'rampage' armed with weapons ranging from sjamboks to pangas searching houses in Alexandra township. They were evidently retaliating for attacks on some of their members by youths who had confiscated their church badges and in some cases forced them to chew these badges because the ZCC had invited State President P W Botha to address them at the church's headquarters at Moria in the northern Transvaal over the preceding Easter weekend. An Orlando resident wrote to the Sunday Times in a letter published in August 1985 that men on buses stoned by youths were scared of fighting back because something terrible might happen to their families. However, they were now vowing to fight back. In 1987 it was reported that UDF members had been attacked by 'vigilantes' in KwaNobuhle who were 'tired of the intimidation of comrades holding the township to ransom'. In July 1986 the Institute suggested that the growth of vigilantes was possibly a reaction to coercive strategies used by revolutionaries.

One of the most recent violent backlashes against coercion occurred during the anti-VAT stayaway at the President Steyn gold mine in November 1991. In reporting the violence, The Star ran a headline 'Claims of third force behind President Steyn violence' on its front page. The Goldstone Commission found no evidence to substantiate these allegations. The Commission found instead that two initial killings by stayaway enforcers led to revenge attacks, counter-attacks, ethnic conflict, and involvement of a gang of 'Russians' from a neighbouring township, at the end of which 86 people were dead and 403 injured.

Although violence is not always party-political, it is apparent that the ANC and/or the UDF on the one hand and the IFP on the other are involved in major conflict. Four examples of conflict on the Reef in 1991 and 1992 show that both sides were both victims and aggressors, but also that it is often not clear exactly what happened or what the political allegiances of participants were.

On 19th April 1991 Mr Moses Khumalo, mayor of Soweto's Diepmeadow township and chairman of the local IFP branch, was ambushed and shot dead with an AK47. Although there is some doubt as to whether his murder was political the IFP was convinced that it was part of the campaign against black local authorities. There had been at least four previous attempts on his life.

After the funeral on Sunday 27th April, ten people were hacked and stabbed to death, allegedly by IFP members. The IFP claimed that this attack was provoked when a bus carrying funeral-goers was fired at with AK47s from a house in the Meadowlands township. Funeral-goers who chased one of the AK47 attackers killed him in his kitchen. Further attack and counter-attack followed, and by the end of the first week in May, 66 people in Soweto were dead in clashes between the ANC and the IFP. What appears to have happened is that a hit-and-run attack was launched against the funeral-goers, after which the attackers disappeared into the surrounding houses. Their targets chased after them, but unable to find all the actual attackers, took revenge on communities presumed to be sheltering them.

The ANC/IFP conflict has spilled over, particularly on the Reef and south of Johannesburg down to the Vaal River, into violence on trains and between hostel residents and other people. The most notorious example of the latter type of conflict was the massacre apparently launched by IFP supporters from the Boipatong hostel in Sebokeng in June 1992. Some people saw hostels on the Reef as military barracks from which IFP supporters launched attacks. The Sowetan, for example, claimed that one hostel-which it described as an 'Inkatha garrison'-in Alexandra township had been the source of attacks that had resulted in nearly 200 deaths. Following the Boipatong massacre, the ANC renewed demands for the fencing of hostels to prevent their being used as bases for attacks on neighbouring communities.

It was, moreover, reported that one of the main problems experienced by the police in their fight against arms smuggling was the virtual impenetrability of hostels. One detective commented: 'You can't just walk in there.' Another said: 'You are faced with thousands of people and you encounter a great deal of hostility and if you do go in there, you can forget about friendly co-operation. For instance, we get a tip-off at 3pm that there are 15 AKs in a hostel room-but by the time we get in, the arms are gone, because they knew that we were coming.'

IFP officials said hostel residents were being organised along military lines to 'defend themselves against people who want to demolish the hostels'. Hostel residents were not safe in their dwellings or on the way to work because Umkhonto we Sizwe had sheltered behind the ANC and 'gone crazy'.

The Boipatong massacre was not the first. One earlier example of conflict between hostel residents and others was in May 1991, when 28 people were murdered at the Swanieville squatter settlement near Kagiso on the west Rand. At the time the police said that the attack on the predominantly Xhosa squatters had been launched by 1 000 residents of a mainly Zulu hostel. There were allegations of collusion between the police and the attackers, Mr Mandela dismissing claims that the police had been unaware of what he said were IFP plans for the massacre. The police, he said, had spies in every hostel, and if hostel dwellers 'decide to attack tomorrow, the police will know immediately'. Mr Mandela said the massacres were happening because 'it has become the policy of the government to allow this in order to weaken the liberation movement'. The IFP, he said, wanted 'to rise to power on the corpses of dead people'.

The IFP said that, for more than a week preceding the violence, residents of the hostel had been subjected to repeated intimidation and sporadic attacks, including stonings, stabbings, and shootings, from people living in the squatter camp. The day before the massacre two hostel residents had been abducted and taken into the squatter camp. They had not been seen since and it was not known whether they were dead or alive. A delegation from the hostel had gone to the squatter camp and asked that the abducted men be set free. The squatters apparently refused to free them and threatened the delegation. This was 'the last straw' for hostel residents. Denying prior knowledge of the massacre, the IFP said: 'IFP members in hostels are being constantly targeted for attack and have had enough. They are frightened, angry and defensive.'

In February 1993 following a trial arising from the massacre, a judge said it was a scandal that only seven men had been charged. Acquitting them for lack of evidence, he said the police should have been able, using video cameras, to bring a strong case against at least 100 people instead of a doubtful case against seven.

Later that same year, conflict broke out in Tokoza, south-east of Johannesburg, and then spread to neighbouring communities. According to a report subsequently drawn up by a committee of the Goldstone Commission, peace had prevailed in the area from February 1991 to 8th September 1991, on which day 18 hostel residents were massacred en route to a meeting in a stadium. The Goldstone report said that the hostel residents had been ambushed following arrangements made at a meeting of a 'self-defence unit' (one of whose members was found to be a police informer) based in the nearby Phola Park squatter settlement. The attack had been executed with a 'high degree of professionalism' by small units of three men each located at three (and possibly four) corners of the stadium.

Three weeks later, on 29th September, Mr Sam Ntuli, general secretary of the Civic Association of Southern Transvaal, was assassinated in the same street in which the 18 hostel residents had been murdered. The Goldstone committee said it could not come to any conclusion as to who had killed Mr Ntuli, but it mentioned the fact that the incident occurred three weeks after the assassination of the hostel residents. Described by the Saturday Star as 'a man with a mission' who 'aimed to wipe black local authorities off the map', Mr Ntuli had escaped a petrol-bomb attack on his house the preceding February in which two children were injured. He blamed the IFP for the attack.

Eight days after his death, on 7th October, which was a normal working Monday, a stayaway was called and mourners performed a hand-washing ceremony at Mr Ntuli's parents' home. After leaving the house some of the funeral-goers took part in an attack on a taxi rank, apparently either because the taxi drivers did not participate in the stayaway or because they were (falsely) believed to be supporters of the IFP. After this attack there was an attack on funeral-goers which led to the deaths of another 18 people. The Goldstone investigation concluded that these murders were premeditated and possibly a retaliation for the earlier assassination of the hostel residents. It said, however, that it did not hear evidence sufficient to conclude that the murders were carried out by or on behalf of hostel residents.

On 26th February 1992 four passengers in a minibus transporting employees of the Rand Water Board from Tokoza were murdered on the Old Vereeniging Road near Phola Park. The committee found that this was a carefully contrived attack, apparently because the owner of the minibus was a member of the IFP. It said that the attack was planned and mounted by the Phola Park 'self-defence unit', which had on 'no occasions during the period in question played a defensive role' and was apparently not under the command of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

On 3rd April, 19 people were killed in what became known as the Crossroads massacre. Crossroads, a squatter settlement north of Tokoza, is occupied mainly by Zulus. On 6th April, four people were killed in an attack on Zonkizizwe, a squatter settlement further south under the control of the IFP, which, said the Goldstone committee, 'does not permit any other political activity in the area'. The committee said it could not identify the reasons for either of these attacks or the political persuasions of the perpetrators, although it was satisfied that they fell within the pattern of attack, counter-attack, revenge, and reconciliation.

An ANC member subsequently pleaded not guilty to 21 murder charges arising from the attack on the hostel residents on 8th September 1991 and the attack on the minibus. This trial, like that of the 32 IFP supporters charged with the Boipatong killings, was in progress at the time of writing.

In an interim report on train violence published in July 1992, the Goldstone Commission said that whenever a group of attackers was identified they turned out to be hostel dwellers, mainly Zulus, traditionally linked to the IFP. In May 1993 in a further report on train violence-which claimed 216 lives in 1992 alone-the commission said it was clear that attacks emanated from hostels as well as from surrounding townships. There was no foundation for any finding that hostel residents were mainly responsible for the attacks on commuters. The report also said that although train violence arose from ANC/IFP enmity, there was no evidence that either organisation had actively encouraged its perpetration.

To describe the ANC/IFP conflict simply as a power struggle between them begs the question as to why they are fighting. How and when violent conflict between the two organisations actually started requires full investigation, although the first signs of it appear to have been as early as 1977 in Natal and 1986 on the Reef. It would appear that the strategy to make the country ungovernable that was adopted eight or nine years ago, focused in particular at homeland administrations and black local authorities, and the backlash it has provoked, are among the main reasons for the violence that now afflicts South Africa. In 1986 Chief Buthelezi was described as a 'counter-revolutionary' who was playing 'a leading role in organising vigilantes attacking those fighting for liberation'. In November 1986, Radio Freedom said in a broadcast, 'It is clear the puppet Gatsha [Buthelezi] is being groomed by the West and the racist regime to become a Savimbi in a future free South Africa. The onus is on the people of South Africa to neutralise the Gatsha snake, which is poisoning the people of South Africa. It needs to be hit on the head.'

Mr Hani later said that the strategy of rendering the state ungovernable had not been merely a question of 'rhetoric': 'We moved out to attack the institutions of white minority rule-the black local authorities, the collaborationist chiefs, the police both black and white, whom we saw as instruments of oppression.' There was, he said, a 'physical campaign to wipe out puppets and stooges'. Politically speaking, Chief Buthelezi was an enemy, Mr Hani said. 'Our propaganda on Radio Freedom was very sharp. We called on the people to oppose him. We called him a stooge and a puppet.'

After the ANC had abandoned armed struggle in 1990 but continued mass action, Mr Hani said, the IFP had adopted a strategy of always opposing ANC initiatives, such as stayaways, and boycotts. The IFP was seen as trying to 'frustrate the liberation movement'. It had 'suddenly became openly aggressive', marching with weapons and red headbands.

According to the Inkatha Institute, part of the ANC/UDF strategy of 'rural mobilisation' in the early 1980s was 'the military empowerment of the youth' in order 'to attack not only government structures (including KwaZulu) but also tribal structures'. The Inkatha Institute claims that the strategy involved the systematic 'elimination of tribal chiefs, mostly Inkatha supporting', and the replacement of tribal courts with 'people's courts'.

Whatever its origins, the ANC/IFP conflict and other conflict in black communities has no doubt been exploited by straight criminal elements, and by reactionary whites, some of whom may be present or past members of security forces. It is nevertheless striking that in fifteen and a half pages of single-spaced transcript of an interview with the Institute, mainly devoted to a discussion of the reasons for conflict between the ANC and the IFP, Mr Hani focused on factors such as the above, mentioning only in passing that a 'third force' was exploiting the animosity between the IFP and the ANC and beginning to make use of elements in the KwaZulu police.

Allegations of right-wing elements provoking conflict among blacks have not been made only in the context of ANC/IFP conflict. In July 1985 the Sunday Times reported that 'hideous atrocities' were being committed in the name of the struggle for regional supremacy between the UDF and Azapo in the eastern Cape, but that leaders of both organisations claimed that neither of them had anything to do with the violence. They hinted at the involvement of an ultra right-wing 'third force'. These allegations were made at the same time as Mr Goniwe was murdered. The newspaper said that the murders underscored the endemic violence which had plagued the region for the past 12 months.

When Mr Ntuli was murdered the Saturday Star devoted almost an entire page to his death and the campaign against black councillors. It quoted him as describing the councillors as the 'actual source of violence against people', and as claiming that Cast had more than 50 'defence units', but the article did not mention any of the violence directed against councillors.

Press Reporting on Violence

The omission is a good example of how aspects of violence are underreported by the media. There appear to be various reasons for this.

Although press censorship by the state all but disappeared during the later years of the 1980s, a new kind of censorship emerged as political activists threatened and sometimes man-handled black reporters. One senior black journalist observed that criticising strategies such as class boycotts was considered taboo by political activists, some of whom organised class boycotts in Soweto but sent their children to private schools in white areas. But if a journalist dared to write about this, he was seen as being 'against the struggle'. The weapon used then 'was to whisper, to spread the word around, that so-and-so is against the struggle'. The journalist added, 'Heaven help you should you ever be cornered by youngsters: they will make you pay for being against the struggle.'

In the mid 1980s, black reporters blamed the ANC and the UDF for most of this intimidation-which received minimal attention in most white newspapers-but added that the PAC, Azapo, and the IFP also threatened journalists.

Another reason why violence is not comprehensively reported could be party-political preferences among journalists. A number of journalists sought in the late 1970s, as one of them put it, to radically 'redefine the agenda of news in South Africa'. Mr Howard Barrell thus wrote in an article in the New Statesman and Society in February 1990 that he had 'worked clandestinely' for the ANC for ten years on the 'South African commercial press'. He said that his task 'as a journalist intervening for the ANC in the press' was 'to create as much space as possible for reportage on the ANC'. This work had involved 'years of necessary deception', inter alia of 'morally diffident editors and controllers of the liberal established press'. The reportage did not necessarily have to be favourable. The important point 'was that the [ANC] be reported in sustained fashion on top of the news agenda as being, generally, the racist congregation's anti-Christ'.

Research by the Institute has found that newspapers, including the established commercial press, have played down certain types of violence, in particular violence against black councillors and the police. For example, in a seven-month period that the Institute monitored between January and July 1990, there were more than 400 attacks on councillors and the police, but more than half of them were not reported in any one of the six English-language newspapers published in Johannesburg. There were also relatively few photographs which dealt with attacks on councillors or policemen, yet right-wing violence and intimidation were regularly featured, prominently displayed, and reported on by teams of investigative journalists accompanied by photographers.

Violence in the anti-VAT stayaway was also played down. For example, by Wednesday 6th November some 24 people were already dead in the stayaway, among them 15 killed in the first stage of violence at President Steyn. Yet in its front-page story that day evaluating the stayaway, The Star chose to highlight claims that it had been a victory for the National Peace Accord signed on 14th September 1991. The paper's editorial that day quoted the claim by a trade union official that 'there have been fewer deaths in the last two days of peaceful protest than there are during the normal running of the country'. The newspaper seemed to agree with him and to share his complacency. It relegated the fatalities to virtual postscript status at the bottom of the article.

The outrage over the Boipatong massacre contrasted powerfully with the manner in which twice as many deaths in the anti-VAT stay-away were shrugged off by the media. Churches and foreign governments donated money for the Boipatong victims' families and many diplomats and prominent personalities were represented at the funeral. Yet these churches and foreign governments do not seem to have started funds for the families of the 86 anti-VAT victims. There was no national day of mourning for them, nor an international outcry. As far as the present writer is aware, there is no fund for the families of 500 or more victims of necklace executions, nor was there any diplomatic ceremony at their funerals.

Newspapers which had propagated the 'third force' theory to explain violence were taken aback by the findings of the Goldstone Commission at the end of May 1992 that one of the main causes of violence was the political conflict between the ANC and the IFP. Many people had already reached this conclusion themselves, but The Stardescribed the Goldstone statement as a 'bombshell' and said ANC officials had raised 'serious questions about the future credibility of the government-appointed commission'.The Weekly Mail ran two long articles attacking Mr Justice Goldstone. He had, the paper said, 'stunned political and legal observers' by putting the blame for violence largely on the conflict between the ANC and the IFP. Why these anonymous 'observers' should be 'stunned' by this statement is not explained. What particularly angered The Weekly Mail was Judge Goldstone's statement that he had received 'no evidence' to suggest the existence of a 'third force' in the sense of a sinister and secret organisation orchestrating political violence on a wide front. The paper maintained that the Goldstone finding had given policemen and the state 'new licence', presumably to carry out acts of criminal violence.

The author of the articles denouncing Judge Goldstone was evidently so absorbed in that exercise that he had no time to read some of the other articles that appeared in the same edition of The Weekly Mail. On page one the newspaper said,

'The revolt of township youths in the Vaal is already uglier that the uprisings of June 1976. Today's youths are armed, their violence anarchic and random, their targets innocent passers-by. A little-publicised state of emergency has been declared in the Vaal area. Streets are barricaded and schooling has stopped Behind the apparently aimless violence lies a desperate cry for help from a generation whose schooling has been intermittent and inadequate and whose futures look bleak.'

On page four the paper said, 'In the 1980s, targets of resistance were clearly defined: killing councillors and other government officials, petrol bombing houses and company vehicles and defying consumer boycotts were legitimate activities, according to anti-apartheid movements intent on rendering the townships ungovernable.' Another article on the same page says, 'The youths believe in mobs. Being in a mob is safer. The youngest [involved in the fighting] are about 9 years.' On page six there is an article about 'vicious internecine feuds flaring up around the country between renegade members of Umkhonto we Sizwe and other anti-apartheid veterans'. The murder of a shop steward at Iscor is put down to a squabble between pro-ANC union shop stewards and a local unit of Umkhonto we Sizwe members. Further on in the article reference is made to a township near Durban which is a hot bed of intrigue and tension between resident comrades and Umkhonto members just returned from exile. Later in the article 'open violence between ANC supporters and an MK-led faction in the Phola Park squatter camp' on the East Rand is mentioned. Another article on the same page says that 'mayhem is compounded by factionalism within the ANC's Vaal region, which has degenerated into internal violence'.

On page 12 there is a report about hundreds of students who 'rampaged' across the Durban campus of the University of Natal, 'wrecking buildings and equipment', in protest against the exclusion from the university in March of a student who had failed 16 out of 22 exams in two years. Further on we learn about 'bizarre stories' in which 'students tell of the GTIs and the "thugmobile" who allegedly drag students from their rooms to join protest action'. GTI, the article says, stands for 'get them intimidated'. In attempting to explain why there is so much 'distrust, racial tension and conflict' on the campus, the article says, 'Some blame the "ungovernability" heritage of 1980s student behaviour. "Then anything was excusable", said one student leader. "You could rape someone to get information and get away with it".'

In seeking to discredit the Goldstone Commission for blaming violence on the ANC and the IFP instead of only on the IFP or on a 'third force', The Weekly Mail was ignoring the facts about ungovernability and anarchy and all the other causes of the violence that were at last beginning to be reported in its columns. The paper accused Judge Goldstone of being 'ahistorical' yet the newspaper itself appeared to have forgotten all about strategies of 'liberation before education' that helped to bring about the unending tragedy of township youngsters who were once romanticised as 'young lions' but who are now the despair of the country-so much so that Mr Hani, shortly before his death almost a year later, was talking about transforming township 'self-defence units' into a type of 'peace corps' in order to regain control over them.

The Legitimation of Revolutionary Violence

Violence in South Africa may have got out of control. But it did so in a situation where the use of violence for political purposes was seen by many as legitimate and morally acceptable in the name of a 'just war'.

Violence does not occur in a vacuum. It draws oxygen from public opinion which supports it or condones it. The violence of pass arrests and forced population removals, along with the violence inflicted on black detainees in police cells, and on black demonstrators on the streets, was endorsed by white voters in South Africa as the National Party won election after election. These policies were also for many years endorsed by the Afrikaner establishment, including the churches, many intellectuals, and the Afrikaans-controlled media. There are many reasons why the NP abandoned these policies. One of them is the withdrawal of intellectual, press, and church endorsement.

These considerations also apply at the other end of the spectrum.


The just war against the enemy and his collaborators has explicit ecclesiastical blessing, even though some South African church leaders deny this. The fact that churches may also have preached or tried to play a role in reconciliation does not alter this fact. It only confuses the moral message-as is evident from a statement in 1991 by the ANC Youth League, which spoke of the 'courageous efforts the men of the cloth have made to achieve peace' but also said that the church had advocated the use of organised violence.

The role played by some South African churches in creating a climate in which people feel they could use violence, free of moral restraint, has probably been greatly underestimated.

In May 1987, the World Council of Churches' Programme to Combat Racism held a conference in Lusaka, the South African delegation to which included 30 church leaders chosen by the South African Council of Churches (SACC). The meeting issued a statement which included the following: 'While remaining committed to peaceful liberation we recognise that the nature of the South African regime which wages war against its own inhabitants and neighbours compels the [liberation] movements to the use of force along with other means to end oppression.' At the same time, the churches gathered in Lusaka condemned the mediating efforts of the American government, which was trying to bring peace to both Namibia and Angola through the withdrawal of foreign troops from both countries.

The Lusaka statement was adopted by a large majority of the annual general meeting of the SACC two months later, despite the fact that some of the delegates were unhappy about it. Two of them proposed a motion (which was heavily defeated) arguing that nobody could be 'compelled' to choose violence since it always involved choice. In abstaining, one of these delegates said, 'I could not vote for the implication that taking up arms is something in which one had no choice.' Another delegate was reported as saying he could not vote for the endorsement of the statement since it would mean the church endorsed violence, in which case, he said, 'I could never again preach about forgiveness and love.' Yet another priest said, 'Force should be permitted as a last resort. The odds must favour that the use of force will be successful. I don't think that every peaceful means has yet been used.'

The Lusaka statement was the tip of an iceberg. The contribution by churches to violence goes back at least as far as the 'Kairos' document, which was signed by 150 clergy and theologians from 22 denominations in South Africa and published in 1985. The document said that a kairos-a moment of truth-had arrived for apartheid. 'Conflict and struggle' would have to intensify 'because there is no other way to remove the injustice and oppression.'

The document dismissed black moderates as 'collaborators' and argued that activities such as 'throwing stones, burning cars and buildings, and sometimes killing collaborators' ought not to be called 'violence' at all but rather self-defence since only oppressors might accurately be said to use violence. The document argued that it would be 'totally un-Christian to plead for reconciliation and peace before the present injustices have been removed'. Reconciliation was ruled out almost by definition: 'The conflict is between an oppressor and the oppressed between two irreconcilable causes or interests in which the one is just and the other is unjust. The church must avoid becoming a "Third Force", a force between the oppressor and the oppressed.'

According to the second edition of the Kairos document, 35 000 copies of the first edition and tens of thousands of summaries in English, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and Afrikaans were being distributed within a year, not to mention translations into foreign languages and worldwide distribution. An office was set up in 1986 to co-ordinate activities and initiatives arising from the document. In particular, efforts were made to 'empower Christian youth for more effective action within the church and society within the framework of the Kairos document'. In March 1986 a book of liturgies for Good Friday and Easter Sunday was published. The aim of one Easter sermon was 'to see the uprising of the people as the resurrection of Christ in South Africa today'. Revolutionary violence was thus not only endorsed but also equated with the resurrection, one of the central tenets of the Christian creed.

In July 1989, 539 South African theologians and other church people-some of them household names-issued a 28-page pamphlet called The Road to Damascus: Kairos and Conversion, which said that the only true Christians were those who adopted liberation theology. Again the document was translated into Afrikaans, Zulu, and Sotho, along with study guides, one aimed at a general audience, the other at students.

According to the Kairos line of thinking, 'There is a long and consistent Christian tradition about the use of physical force to defend oneself against aggressors and tyrants. In other words there are circumstances when physical force may be used. They are very restrictive circumstances, only as the very last resort and only as the lesser of two evils.'

These 'very restrictive circumstances' did not obtain in South Africa, however, for the society had already begun to change, most notably through the recognition of trade union rights for Africans on 1st October 1979-as long ago as six years prior to the Kairos document. Six years before that, Africans had won the right to strike. Both of these important victories over the apartheid system were won by non-violent means. In June 1985 the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and Section 16 of the Immorality Act were repealed. There were also strong indications in 1985 that the pass laws were on their way out. Job reservation was eroding, the Group Areas Act was crumbling, along with educational apartheid, home-ownership was being phased in, and Mr P W Botha had announced in early 1985 that independence would no longer be forced upon homelands. In short it was clear that the apartheid system was disintegrating.

In 1986 the pass laws were repealed. Leasehold was replaced by homeownership in the same year, and Mr Botha announced that the government accepted an undivided country and one citizenship and that Africans would be allowed to participate in government at executive level. The Restoration of South African Citizenship Act was passed. Yet a year later the Lusaka statement, in keeping with the Kairos document, implied that change could not come about except through violence.

The Kairos document, however, made it impossible for any of these reforms to be accepted as reforms. They were ruled out by definition on the grounds that 'reforms that come from the top are never satisfactory'. This is at best a half-truth. The legal rights to strike, to form trade unions, and to move from country to town were reluctantly conceded by the government because Africans created these rights for themselves by action on the ground. These reforms came from the 'bottom', not from the top.

The government, however, was described as 'an enemy of all the people. A tyrant. A totalitarian regime. A reign of terror. The enemy of God.' Defined in these terms, 'the apartheid minority regime' was pronounced irreformable.

The churchmen thus did not merely issue one or two statements endorsing violence. They adopted a multi-pronged approach including:

Ø. developing a theology to back their legitimation of violence;

Ø. discrediting of reform;

Ø. discrediting of non-liberation-theology minded Christians (who were branded as heretics and Satanists);

Ø. spreading liberation theology through various languages into ordinary Christian worship; and

Ø. targeting youth groups in particular to translate the Kairos document 'into action'.

Moreover, churches had the money to do this. Over the last ten or 12 years, tens of millions of rands have been given to the SACC and organisations linked to it by churches in other countries, mainly North American and European, and by the European Community. How much of this went to the promotion of liberation theology and how much into welfare or other projects is impossible to say, however.

How much influence did the churches have? The third impression of the Kairos document has the following to say in an appendix:

'The worldwide interest and excitement generated by this document has far exceeded anything the authors could have imagined even in their wildest dreams The Kairos document has received extensive press coverage both in South Africa and overseas. Church magazines and newspapers have given it considerable attention and it has become a major topic of discussion in church conferences, synods, discussion groups and the like. Public meetings and seminars have been organised around it and committees are springing up here and there to plan action upon the reflections in this document.

But most significant of all is the enthusiasm with which it has been received by very ordinary Christians in the black townships of South Africa. They are saying that the Kairos document gives articulate expression to what they believe as Christians about the present struggle for liberation in South Africa.'

In a recent book entitled Revolution or Reconciliation? The Struggle in the Church in South Africa, Ms Rachel Tingle says that in countries like Britain, Christian allegiance is so low that the political pronouncements of church leaders would generally not have much practical effect. In South Africa, however, she argues, 77% of the population adheres to Christianity and church leaders command enormous respect. The book quotes one liberation theologian as saying that because of this, the theologies of liberation have been far more politically disturbing to South Africa than secular communism. If the same ideas had been promoted in a form other than theology they would not have been taken seriously, but, presented in theological language, they were taken seriously.

An opponent of liberation theology, Bishop Bill Burnett, a former Archbishop of Cape Town, had the following to say in an open letter in December 1990:

'We have fiddled the scriptures for ideological ends, and it may be we must bear some responsibility for the awful breakdown of authority and random killings among young people, including policemen. We too need to repent. Bad government is better than no government and the terrible consequences of anarchy that must follow the breakdown of authority. This is a terrible thing to have done. In the light of this awful breakdown of authority in recent months, and the carnage that ensued, we may need to look into our own hearts, and to repent of our failure in leadership.'

'The new Kairos' was published by the Institute for Contextual Theology (ICT), a leading institution in the promotion of liberation theology, in September 1990. This document said that 'appeals for peace have more and more of a hollow ring about them because they do not put the blame where it really belongs-outside the townships'. It went on: 'The primary task at this moment, then, is not to call for peace but to call for justice.'

The statement that this was not the time to call for peace was made during a year of greatly intensified violence. It was made eight months after the release of political prisoners and the lifting of the bans on political organisations, four months after the signature of the Groote Schuur Minute (2nd May 1990) and the lifting of the state of emergency outside Natal, and a month after the signature of the Pretoria Minute, in which the ANC suspended the armed struggle.

In 1991, despite the political liberalisation set in motion the year before, the ICT said that it was developing a 'post-exilic theology' specifically to address 'the trends of "neutrality" and "reconciliation" creeping into the church'. In the same year, the ICT announced that a group of theological institutions around Pietermaritzburg in Natal were 'committed to providing a contextual theological education'. A publishing house was launched to provide the texts. Liberation theology was thus to be introduced into the curricula of seminars embracing the major Christian churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.

Ironically, while the Kairos documents ignored all reforms, the South African Communist Party recognised them. It said in 1985:

'We may scorn the tricameral parliament as a farce, but we cannot dismiss as purely cosmetic, for example, the alterations in trade union law which have facilitated the development of the independent trade union movement and made it possible for African workers to organise legally, take part in collective bargaining and go on strike, albeit with many constraints. Nor can we oppose the scrapping of the Mixed Marriages and Immorality Acts, or the colour bar on the mines-the last refuge of job reservation, which Botha has promised to end by the beginning of 1986. And there are many other concessions of a similar kind which have been prised out of a reluctant regime by the mounting tide of internal and external pressure: freehold rights in the townships, freer movement of African labour in both urban areas and bantustans, the abolition of the Prohibition of Political Interference Act etc.

It is true that all these "reforms" affect only a tiny handful and leave the fundamental structure of apartheid intact-What then is their purpose? In our view they are clearly part of a strategy worked out by the Botha regime and its "constructive engagement" partners in the west to defuse the South African revolution.'

The SACP went on to quote Mr Tambo and the ANC as having 'alerted the people to the dangers of the enemy's strategy and called on them to intensify the fight'. In Mr Tambo's words:

'We charged them with the task to make the country ungovernable and to defeat the cunning enemy manoeuvre represented by the amended apartheid constitution. And to that call and that challenge our people have responded with unequalled enthusiasm, persistence and courage.'

Liberation theology as expressed in the Kairos document necessitates portraying the state as an irreformable oppressor with whom there can be no reconciliation. If the state begins to reform and to seek reconciliation, the doctrine collapses. It is therefore necessary to find new ways of demonising the state. This is done by portraying it and its supposed allies as the sole causes of the violence in South Africa. Reports such as those of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which seek to do that, describe the SACC as one of their 'subscribing organisations'. When liberation theology contends that violence against people alleged to be collaborators is not really violence, it is perhaps preparing the way for the HRC to be selective about the massacres on which it reports, ignoring those of people regarded as collaborators.

What some of the churches had to say about violence on the left was echoed on the right after the assassination of Mr Hani. Referring to one of the three people subsequently charged with the murder, the Boereweerstandsbeweging (BWB) said, 'The BWB does not accept that Mr [Janusz] Walus is a murderer or a terrorist, but a soldier and freedom fighter for the Boer people.' He had, said the BWB, emigrated from Poland to South Africa to 'rid himself of communism', against which he was a 'first-class fighter'. Echoing the attitude of people on the left with regard to revolutionary violence, friends of Mr Walus were quoted as saying his action was 'understandable'. The murder was an 'act of despair' by someone who had 'suffered under communism and fled his own fatherland and will find it hard to accept that the same fate may await him in his new country'.

Mr Piet Rudolph, who denied reports that he had supplied Mr Walus with the murder weapon, said, 'Like Mr Hani, I see myself as a freedom fighter.' The Afrikanerweerstandsbeweging said Mr Waluswho was one of its members-should be treated not as a criminal but as a political prisoner.

Like the liberation theologians, the right defend their cause as the waging of a just war. Both argue in effect that the end justifies the means. Both forget the risks in such an approach, as spelt out, among others, by Professor Sir Karl Popper in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies:

'We must not think that the so-called "end", as a final result, is more important than the intermediate result, the "means". First, the so-called "end" is hardly ever the end of the matter. Secondly, the means are not, as it were, superseded once the end is achieved. For example, "bad" means, such as a new powerful weapon used in war for the sake of victory, may, after this "end" is achieved, create new trouble. In other words, even if something can be correctly described as a means to an end, it is, very often, much more than this. It produces other results apart from the end in question, and what we have to balance is not the past or present means against future ends, but the total results, as far as they can be foreseen, of one course of action against those of another.'

Not all South African Christians, nor even all of those whose churches were affiliated to the SACC, agreed with the endorsement of 'force' as a means to end apartheid. It is possible that most rank-and-file Christians disagreed. A leading figure in one of the major denominations affiliated to the SACC has contended that the Lusaka statement was never endorsed by any of the churches affiliated to the council. The SACC, however, publishes a leaflet listing 21 member churches, a dozen associate organisations, three observer churches, and 24 regional and local councils of churches. Whether intentionally or not, the list creates the impression that the SACC speaks for all the major Christian denominations and many minor ones other than three described as only 'observers' (among them the Southern African Catholic Bishops' conference). There is no indication in the leaflet as to whether the SACC always speaks for its member churches or not. Pronouncements by the SACC on violence and its determined-and continuing-campaign for economic sanctions against South Africa are undoubtedly two of the most important initiatives undertaken by Christian leaders in South Africa in the last decade. If, as has been suggested, the SACC did not speak for its member churches when it spoke on violence, the question arises, for whom did it speak? The same question arises with regard to the SACC's stand on sanctions. Even though most rank- and-file Christians might have disagreed with the SACC on both violence and sanctions, it was not they, but the liberation theologians and the leadership of the SACC who made their views powerfully known and had the ear of the local and foreign press, the diplomatic circuit, and the international community. The African Independent Churches, which are said to enjoy the support of 35%40% of South Africa's black population, are not even affiliated to the SACC. Many ministers in various denominations that were affiliated no doubt disapproved of the endorsement of violence: some might have chosen not to contradict the SACC hierarchy, others might have been afraid to, for the 1980s were not an easy time for people to speak out against the left. The view, assiduously propagated by the left, that bannings, detentions, the state of emergency, and other measures had destroyed all opportunities for peaceful change in South Africa was powerfully held in press and diplomatic circles in the country, among many liberals and the intelligentsia, and was of course the prevailing wisdom abroad. Some liberals could-and did-muster cogent arguments against this viewpoint, but others did not want to hear them. On 9th May 1989, for example, the Institute issued a statement commemorating its 60th birthday which said, inter alia, 'The Institute continues to chronicle the horrors of apartheid, but it is careful not to perpetuate half-truths and myths about South Africa that erode both local and foreign belief in the possibility of peaceful transformation-for example, the half-truth that all non-violent opposition to apartheid has been eliminated by the emergency regulations.' The statement was reproduced in full in newspapers around the country, except for The Star, from whose version the italicised words were excised.


What some people regard as a just war against collaborators has its parallels in what others no doubt regarded as a just war against communists. Challenged in May 1992 on a television programme by a journalist, Mr Lester Venter, as to whether or not his government had ordered the killing of radicals, the then minister of defence, Mr Roelf Meyer, said 'No, a hundred times no.' The interviewer, having got Mr Meyer to admit that the ANC was considered the enemy, then wondered whether an 'enemy psychosis' was at work. Was it possible, he asked, that an instruction from the National Security Council to restrain certain political activists might-when it filtered down to the zealous men in uniform-be interpreted as an invitation to do their worst? Commented the Sunday Times: 'Meyer insisted no order could possibly be interpreted in that fashion. Maybe he is right. But Venter's proposition rings more depressingly true.'

Indeed it does. To stigmatise people in this way risks being interpreted as issuing a licence to kill them. The object of all wars, just and unjust, is to kill the enemy. In fact, Radio Freedom explicitly called for the elimination of collaborators, puppets, sellouts, and the like. By hanging the deadliest of all political labels around its opponents' necks, Radio Freedom and others put them beyond the pale.

The process of stigmatisation has played a major role in the violence. It not only sets people up for attack but also scares off any would-be defenders. A stigma is a mark branded upon a criminal, a mark of infamy. The consequences of stigmatising people are strikingly shown in two studies of Nazi Germany which explain how it was that ordinary Germans kept quiet while the Nazis gassed the Jews. The books show that Hitler could not have got away with the gas chambers in, say, the mid 1930s, because public opinion would have been outraged. To get away with mass murder it was necessary first to stigmatise the intended victims. The start was a modest one, boycotting Jewish shops. Next, Jews were thrown out of social clubs. The process of social ostracism went hand-in-hand with anti-semitic propaganda. The two were mutually reinforcing. The severance of social ties meant that Gentiles no longer had any contact with Jews which might cause them to question the propaganda. Next, two or three synagogues were burnt down, so paving the way for Kristallnacht, when there was an orgy of arson against Jewish properties throughout the Third Reich. The arson was carried out by the Nazi activists. The rest of Germany kept quiet. The Nazis correctly interpreted this public acquiescence as a sign that they could get away with the next move and so on. By the time the trains started moving to the death camps, Jews had been so demonised that when the rumours about the gas chambers started spreading, they did not cause any outrage, still less resistance, because public opinion no longer regarded Jews as human.

The process of stigmatisation helps to explain why so many ordinary, decent white South Africans kept quiet for so long about bannings and house arrests and deaths in detention. When Miss Ruth Hayman, a Johannesburg attorney, was banned and house-arrested in 1966, the organised legal profession refused to take up her case. Mr Vorster had so stigmatised the liberals that most whites regarded them as communists and, when confronted with the injustice of banning without trial, retorted, 'Well she must have done something, otherwise Mr Vorster wouldn't have banned her.' This acquiescence paved the way for the next step-detention without trial, whose consequences have already been discussed.

As the Radio Freedom broadcasts made clear, stigmatisation of their opponents was a major strategy of South African revolutionaries in the 1980s.

The targets of stigmatisation included trade unionists. On 8th July 1984, City Press carried a headline 'I hate you, Lucy!' In letters more than an inch high, it quoted a president of the UDF, Mr Oscar Mpetha, as saying of Mrs Lucy Mvubelo, general secretary of the National Union of Clothing Workers, that she was 'one of the unionists who teaches workers that trade unionism does not involve politics but only bread and butter issues'. Speaking to 500 students at the fourth annual congress of the Azanian Students' Organisation, Mr Mpetha said that union leaders such as Mrs Mvubelo were telling workers they were not ready to revolt against apartheid, and so making them 'docile and subservient'. On 17th July, the Sowetan reported under the headline 'Bombs hit Lucy's house' on the front page that two petrol bombs had been thrown through the window of her home in Orlando West (Soweto), completely destroying it (but causing no death or injury). The paper said that an anonymous 'South African Suicide Squad' had claimed responsibility for the bombing.

A few days later the Sunday Times reported:

'A new breed of terror is stalking the streets of Soweto-young thugs, armed with homemade petrol bombs, striking at the homes of the so-called "government stooges" of black society. They call themselves the South African Suicide Squad, a sinister band which attacks carefully chosen targets in the middle of the night. At least three people, a woman and her two daughters, have burnt to death in a blaze. They have attacked 16 times, striking mainly at the homes of Soweto councillors. Each attack is always followed by a call to a local newspaper, claiming responsibility.'

The South African Institute of Race Relations issued a press statement in which it said that remarks such as 'I hate you, Lucy!' fostered 'a climate in which attacks like that on Mrs Mvubelo are perpetrated'. The spray of stigmatisation was spread very wide. The targets included long-standing opponents of the government who also opposed revolution, among them the South African Institute of Race Relations. As already noted, Ms Tingle's book shows also how liberation theologians stigmatised their more orthodox colleagues as apostates and heretics.

The process of stigmatisation may help to explain why the assassinations of IFP officials have received far less attention in the media than those of Dr David Webster and other anti-apartheid activists. Having been labelled as collaborators and therefore legitimate targets in a 'just war', IFP members could be murdered without prompting very much attention in the local and foreign media. While newspapers have printed vast numbers of articles about the 'third force' and assigned teams of reporters to expose criminal activity on the part of security forces or IFP members, the coverage of killings of IFP people has been minimal by comparison. The IFP claims to have lost 1 275 members and officebearers since 1985, among them people killed in nine massacres in the last few months of 1992, 'mostly committed by trained hit squads in uniform'. So far as is known, no newspapers have mounted investigations into these killings, or into IFP claims that although Umkhonto we Sizwe might no longer be seen as a serious threat to white South Africa, it is 'a massive threat to that part of black South Africa which is not in the ANC camp'. IFP allegations that the government is turning a blind eye to members of Umkhonto being deployed from the Transkei in an 'unprecedented military offensive' to assassinate IFP leaders have also apparently not been investigated.

After talks with the British prime minister, Mr John Major, in May 1993, Chief Buthelezi said Mr Major had been surprised when told of the scale of killings of IFP officials. Three years previously, Chief Buthelezi had admitted that his reputation both at home and abroad had been tarnished by the IFP's involvement in violence: 'We have certainly paid a high price. The great superiority of the ANC has lain in its international diplomatic effort, and they have got the foreign press to swallow their version of events.'

Liberal Acquiescence

The growth of the culture in which some black people were mobilised to use violence against other black people occurred at a time when many liberals abandoned their traditional watchdog role and accepted the revolutionary agenda-that politics was of only two kinds, liberatory and collaborationist, and that those, like the Institute, advocating non-violent change, were naïve. Township residents have reaped the whirlwind sown by these simplistic notions. It is both tragic and ironic that black people, the victims of the apartheid system, should also be the main victims of the violence engendered by some of the liberatory strategies. Members of the liberal community who abandoned their old values-of non-violence and tolerance, of standing up for the underdog-may be said to have failed South Africa in her hour of need. In the 1960s they spoke up bravely for the rights of communists against the arbitrary powers of Mr Vorster. In the 1980s they failed to speak up for the rights of black policemen or councillors-even corrupt ones, who presumably have a right to a fair trial instead of being assassinated or summarily executed. Worst of all, they failed to speak up for ordinary people against the coercive strategies of revolutionaries.

The liberal intelligentsia failed even to speak up for freedom of speech on the once liberal English-speaking university campuses, which remain no-go areas for speakers to whom some white and black students object. Coercion has indeed flourished in a climate where it has become acceptable in some intellectual circles. The then editor of Business Day, Mr Ken Owen, was widely condemned in liberal circles in Johannesburg when he wrote critical articles about the disappearance of free speech from the once liberal campuses.

While some liberals condoned the use of violence, others seemed reluctant to take the ANC's commitment to insurrection seriously. Mr Owen thus wrote in 1986 that ANC members in Lusaka had complained that liberal whites in South Africa constantly tried to soften their message. Referring to a press conference given by Mr Tambo, Mr Owen wrote:

'Tambo's comments were less widely threatening than government media pretended, but the commitment to "armed struggle"-to violence-is also more implacable than most liberals care to admit.'

Despite the fact that the pattern of actual violence in the 1980s correlated closely with the type of violence called for by the ANC, some academic observers took the view that the 'people's war' amounted to little more than rhetoric.

The slideaway of the 1980s has extended into the 1990s. Indeed, there remains at the time of writing a reluctance among liberals and in business, media, academic and political circles to even entertain the possibility that the continuing high levels of violence in South Africa may be attributable less to any 'third force' than to continued adherence to revolutionary strategies, if not always as official policies of organisations as a whole, then at least in the attitudes and behaviour of some of their component parts.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.