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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The National Peace Accord and its Structures

South Africa Civil Society and Governance Case Study No. 1
by Phiroshaw Camay and Anne J. Gordon
Co-operative for Research and Education (CORE)
Johannesburg, South Africa


The relatively peaceful transition to a fully democratic society in South Africa has been a surprise to both internal and external observers and commentators in light of the country's history of systematic violation of human, social, political and economic rights under apartheid. Whilst violence has by no means been eradicated, some credit for the relative peace during the period 1991-94 has to be given to the National Peace Accord (NPA).

The legacy of the NPA has also had far reaching impact in building the understanding amongst different sectors of South African civil society and government agencies of how to mediate solutions to community violence rather than resorting to counter-violence. It facilitated the negotiations between the political forces involved in negotiating the transition to democracy. Further, it helped to put on track the transformation of the agencies responsible for maintaining public order, eg. the police service and the defence force, so that those agencies would be able to function appropriately and with credibility in a democratic South Africa. Overall, the NPA made a significant contribution to building communication and political tolerance amongst the contesting parties prior to the 1994 elections, allowing those elections to take place in an environment of relative peace and stability.

The direct and tangible impact of the NPA included the establishment of a National Peace Secretariat, 11 regional peace committees and more than 200 local peace committees. Approximately 15,000 peace monitors were trained across the country, drawn from all sections of society. The peace structures themselves, and the co-operation of key elements in government, political parties, business and civil society, enabled considerable progress in reimposing the rule of law and bringing peace to many strife-torn communities.

The NPA demonstrated the importance of providing space for civil society to operate freely and autonomously, and thereby to play a constructive and non-partisan role in the peace process. Highly diverse civil society organisations were able to work together in the peace structures and make a major contribution to peace and human rights monitoring, community mediation and a whole range of other key services. However, the constructive role of a large proportion of civil society also highlighted the continuing role of militant elements in every quarter of every stakeholder bent on sowing discord and disharmony, and the need to be aware of their agendas so as to limit their impact.

An essential element of the success of the NPA surely was the building of grassroots support and extensive participation by individual citizens in the peace process. Those communities who felt that the NPA structures were being imposed from above declined to participate. Those who initiated peace moves themselves, with eventual help from the peace structures and civil society, were empowered through new skills and confidence-building which permitted them to improve governance at the local level.

However, in some respects the NPA did not succeed. Not all peace committees met with equal success in reducing levels of violence, due among other things to the complex causes of the conflict and to the inability of some of the stakeholders to control and discipline their members. The limitations of political will within political parties was a major problem. The impression of weakness at the political negotiating table was another feature of these tensions. Also, the limitations and comparative advantages of both government and civil society must be recognised and taken into account in determining their respective terms of reference under such compacts.

The Goldstone Commission failed in many respects due to its inability to get reliable information from various sources in order to ascertain the truth about the causes of violence in specific circumstances. The impracticability of many of its recommendations and its lack of enforcement authority were major drawbacks. The eventual revelations through the more recent hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have shown clearly that in some cases, testimony to the Goldstone Commission was false. It also showed that in general, whilst some were more guilty than others, fault behind the violence lay on all sides.

Perhaps predictably, the Accord failed in its objective to bring socio-economic development to communities torn apart by violence. As the violence could not be stopped overnight, long-term development activities were out of the question. Even short-term projects encountered serious problems in many cases. They often became yet another source of division where they upset power relations and offered benefits to only certain groups within those communities. Further, any role undertaken by the local peace committees which involved them in making decisions about distribution of resources threatened to compromise their capacity to act as objective peace brokers. On reflection, whilst well-intentioned, this objective was probably too optimistic and placed an unrealistic burden on the peace structures. Such aims, whilst necessary to reduce conflict, tend to create high expectations but result in added frustration and disillusionment when foiled by political actors. Such aims should be approached cautiously and implemented with vigour.

Thus, in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances in which it was drafted and agreed, and despite some notable weaknesses, the National Peace Accord was a remarkable achievement and had a significant impact. It is a clear illustration of how strife-torn countries can build peace and democracy.

This case study focuses on the period 1991 to 1994. It begins with a brief description of the violence and conflict which characterised South African society in the early phase of the political transition. It then explains the origins and content of the National Peace Accord, and the obligations to which signatories agreed. We discuss the operationalisation of the NPA structures and various stakeholder roles. We posit the successes and failures of the NPA, and the reasons behind these. Finally, we analyse the impact of the NPA experience on SA civil society and government, and the consequent implications for issues of governance.


Political violence, particularly in the period 1985-94, was a major cause of concern to both the state and various organs of civil society. The causes of the violence were complex. However, it is important to provide a broad indication of the origins of the conflict and the resultant violence so as to grasp the challenges faced by South African civil society and government. John Hall, chair of the NPA said: "... There are two major driving forces to violence -- socio-economic, exacerbated by lack of political settlement; and the lack of normal structures such as community police, town clerks -- the makers and enforcers of municipal laws." [Financial Mail, 9.4.93] The Goldstone Commission cited political competition between political parties, the dehumanising effects of apartheid, and socio-economic factors as key factors in causing violence. In July 1993, they added two factors to the list: political uncertainty and the role of 'agents provocateurs'. [Business Day, 22.7.93]

Political violence manifested itself in various forms of conflict, including attacks by freedom fighters on both official and civilian targets, racial conflict between whites and blacks, attacks on policemen and soldiers, attacks on local government councillors in the townships, attacks on struggle activists and organisations, conflicts between political parties (eg. the ANC, PAC, Azapo, and IFP), conflicts between different ethnic groups, conflicts between hostel dwellers and homeowners, hostel dwellers and shack dwellers, and amongst shack dwellers. These were due to the struggle against apartheid, the divisions within the black communities caused by the apartheid government's divide and rule approach to governance, and the reluctance of some white communities to accept the inevitability of the transition to democracy.

The challenges to the peace process were further explained by Steven Goldblatt, legal counsel to the Thokoza Civic Association, who said in July 1993: "...The [peace] structures can only create a temporary peace, because they are not equipped to address the underlying issues at the root of violent conflict in the townships". Many people agreed that much of the violence was about distribution of scarce basic resources such as shelter, water and work. "If you have a gun, or are aligned to someone with a gun, then you have access to available resources." Access to jobs is often in the gift of those already in work, and they in return demand support for the party to which they belong. The price for a place in a hostel, a site for a shack, or access to a tap is similar: membership or support for the IFP, PAC or ANC. "But those commanding allegiance are often party politicians in name only, choosing their colours for a variety of expedient reasons, often related to the procurement of weapons and ammunition". Goldblatt said: "The true extent of 'warlordism' is often disguised behind the cloak of political affiliation. And, in a situation like this, the lines between self-defence and criminal acts can rapidly become blurred." Armed groups are increasingly in business for themselves, involved in activities which are anything but conducive to public order. Their agendas, dictated by individual profit and power rather than the common good they claim to be defending, often run counter to those of the political organisations to which they claim loyalty. The political parties increasingly lost control over these armed formations, eg. in Thokoza/Katlehong and Phola Park. [Weekly Mail, 2.7.93]

"Lasting peace will only come when the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed in communities where poverty is rife, social structures have broken down, and the people's sense of identity has been eroded for years." Whilst the peace structures could certainly help in setting new norms of behaviour, the deeper socio-economic ills also had to be addressed. [Weekly Mail, 2.7.93]

Blame for the violence was apportioned to various groups at various times, but this did little to solve the causes and put a halt to the deaths. Rather, accusations traded back and forth tended to increase the tension. The annual breakdown of political fatalities in South Africa (including the ten homelands), as reported by the South African Institute of Race Relations, was:


Total political fatalities

























[SAIRR, Fast Facts, March 1996]

This data shows that the numbers were on the rise, with a more than 250% increase from 1989 to 1990, a slight decline in 1991, and then a steady rise again in 1992 and 1993. It was only in 1994, probably due to the combined impact of the National Peace Accord, the political negotiations, and finally, the democratic elections held in April, that the political violence began to subside.


Civil society organisations played an important part in initiating the dialogue aimed at curbing the violence. Due to its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of the people, the government was not acceptable to most parts of civil society as a leader or facilitator in the peace-making process.

In November 1990, despite the historical divisions between the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the Afrikaner churches, 80 denominations and 40 religious organisations met in Rustenburg to discuss the problems facing South Africa and the role of religious organisations. At this meeting, the Dutch Reformed Church took a historic step and publicly confessed its guilt for accepting and participating in the apartheid discrimination. The spirit of reconciliation which this produced led to the Rustenburg Declaration which "denounced apartheid, called for a democratic constitution and a more equitable distribution of wealth, and urged churches to condemn all forms of violence". The Conference also agreed to co-ordinate church strategies and to call a peace conference in an attempt to end the violence. [Gastrow, 1995, p. 16]

Around the same time, the Consultative Business Movement (CBM), a voluntary grouping of the more progressive elements from the business sector, also began to address how the private sector could contribute to ending the violence. They recognised that the violence was harming not only the political negotiations process, but also the economy. It therefore was hitting their interests hard. They prepared a memorandum on the violence in the PWV area (the heart of SA's economy) and took it to some of the key political players, including the ANC, Cosatu and the IFP, but without any notable outcome at this stage. [Gastrow, 1995, pp. 17-18]

In early 1991, President de Klerk attempted to call together political, religious and community leaders to discuss the issue of violence. This move was rejected by many organisations as it came from a state regarded as illegitimate and as being responsible for many of the causes of the violence. Opponents argued that the summit should have been called by an independent group. An SACC initiative to call a peace conference was also rejected by many as partisan, as the SACC was seen as too close to the ANC. De Klerk's summit took place on 24/25 May 1991 as planned, but without the participation of many key stakeholders. Whilst 200 leaders of business, political groups and churches attended, including the IFP, DP, Sacob and CBM, many other significant players -- including the ANC, PAC, CP, Azapo, SACC and others -- did not. The main outcome of this meeting was an agreement that it was only one step in an ongoing process, and that the Rustenburg church committee could act as facilitator in planning a further, more representative peace conference. [Gastrow, 1995, pp. 24-25]

Louw Alberts, co-chair of the Rustenburg committee, was asked to take the lead. After consultations with all the key stakeholders, a committee of 13 persons from religious groups and business was formed. On 22 June, a carefully planned preparatory meeting for a peace summit was held, and due to the sensitivity of the issues, was closed to the media. The meeting was attended by 120 individuals representing about 20 organisations. Of the important stakeholders, only three right-wing parties did not attend. A brainstorming exercise, with no debate allowed, was conducted in which participants were asked to list the causes of political violence and ways of ending it. Some key recommendations emerged, including a code of conduct for political organisations, a code of conduct for the security forces, enforcement mechanisms, and the need for socio-economic reconstruction and development. Also recommended were a statutory commission, and peace secretariats at national, regional and community levels. These proposals laid the basic groundwork for what emerged later as the National Peace Accord.

A further outcome was agreement that the preparations for a National Peace Convention should be handled by the same facilitating committee, with the addition of three representatives each from the ANC, IFP and government. Five working groups were established, each of which was to be similarly representative, to look at the following issues:

1.. Code of conduct for political parties

2.. Code of conduct for security forces

3.. Socio-economic development

4.. Implementation and monitoring

5.. Process, secretariat and media

These committees submitted their reports just before the agreed dealine of 14 September. The results were collated into what became the National Peace Accord. The National Peace Convention, held at the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg on 14 September 1991, adopted the Accord. It was attended by national leaders of all the political parties, with the exception of the same three right-wing parties who had been invited but declined to come. It was also attended by the leaders of the self-governing and independent homelands, religious leaders, trade unions, traditional leaders, newspaper editors, etc. "It showed that the deep-seated differences that existed would, in future, not prevent the various parties from speaking to each other about common interests." [Gastrow, 1995, p. 33] The Accord was signed by 27 political, trade union and government leaders. This was a huge accomplishment for both political parties and a wide range of civil society organisations.

Some political parties to the far left and right did not agree to sign the NPA. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) declined to sign because they were unwilling to be part of any structure that included government, but they indicated their support for the spirit and objectives of the Accord. On the right, the Conservative Party (CP), the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) and the Herstigte Nasionale Party were not present and did not sign. Also refusing to sign the Accord were three of the so-called "independent" homelands created under apartheid: Bophutatswana, Transkei and Venda. Ciskei signed but later withdrew from implementation.


The National Peace Accord (NPA) aimed to bring about an end to violence in South Africa and to establish a multi-party democracy. It also aimed to bring about peaceful power-sharing in a multi-party democracy and to assist in social and economic reconstruction. The NPA recognised as fundamental rights the freedoms of conscience and belief, speech and expression, association, movement, peaceful assembly and peaceful political activity. It was premised on fundamental democratic principles of good governance, mutual responsibility and accountability. It provided for all signatories to monitor each others' compliance with codes of conduct -- for political organisations, security forces and the police in particular. Specifically, the NPA required:

Ø. political parties and organisations to condemn violence publicly and encourage an understanding of democracy and tolerance, to prevent any member from killing, injuring, intimidating or threatening violence toward others because they hold different political beliefs, to help police in investigating violence and arresting people involved.

Ø. security forces to protect all people from criminal acts and not to take sides, to try to prevent crimes, to use as little force as possible, and to work together with communities to combat violence in order to rebuild trust.

Ø. police to protect the people from all criminal acts and acts of political violence without bias against any political belief, to consult regularly with local peace committees and community leaders, to disarm people carrying illegal weapons, and to implement special procedures for investigating political violence.

The Accord called for social and economic reconstruction and development to benefit particularly those communities affected by political violence. It stressed that reconstruction and development projects should be planned and implemented with the involvement of all members of the community, regardless of their political affiliation, and urged local organisations to work together towards this end. Community members were, as much as possible, to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own development. However, it was acknowledged that urgent assistance would be required in some cases to reconstruct damaged property, reintegrate displaced persons into their communities, expand infrastructure, and involve the community in its maintenance and improvement. Such activities should be used to defuse tensions within communities, especially where there is violence related to access to scarce resources or limited facilities.

The aims of the NPA were appropriate to the problems they were intended to address. However, they were hugely optimistic given the limited resources available in the country and the continuing political turmoil. Yet they represented the first real breakthrough in the political deadlock, and as such provided a positive encouragement to the various political stakeholders and to society as a whole.

Signatories to the National Peace Accord

African National Congress (ANC)
Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers of South Africa
Confederation of Metal and Building Unions
Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa)
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)
Democratic Party (DP)
Dikwankwetla Party / QwaQwa government
Federation of Independent Trade Unions
Ximoko Progressive Party / Gazankulu governement
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
Intando ye Sizwe Party
Inyandza National Movement / KaNgwane government
KwaNdebele government
KwaZulu government
Labour Party of South Africa
Lebowa government
United People's Front
Merit Peoples' Party
National Forum
National Party / Government of South Africa
National Peoples' Party of South Africa
Solidarity Party
South African Communist Party
United Workers' Union of South Africa


The structures of the NPA

The Peace Institutions Act provided for the operationalisation of Peace Accord structures at national, regional and local levels. The structures and their functions were as follows:

National level:

National Peace Committee (NPC): To be composed of those political parties and organisations on the Preparatory Committee plus other representatives drawn from the signatory parties. Its objective was to "monitor and to make recommendations on the implementation of the NPA as a whole and to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Organisations." [Chapter 8, NPA]

National Peace Secretariat (NPS): To be comprised of at least four persons nominated by the NPC and one representative of the Department of Justice, plus up to four further appointees. Its function was to "establish and co-ordinate Regional Dispute Resolution Committees and thereby Local Dispute Resolution Committees". [Chapter 7, NPA)

Commission of Inquiry (Goldstone Commission): To be comprised of a judge or retired judge of the Supreme Court or a senior advocate with at least 10 years experience in the enforcement of the law -- to ensure independent and objective leadership, and a senior advocate, attorney or professor of law, plus three other duly qualified persons. Its function was to investigate the causes of the political violence, to establish the background and reasons for it, and to suggest remedies. [Chapter 6, NPA)

Regional level:

Regional Peace Committees: To include, as appropriate, representatives of political organisations, religious organisations, trade unions, industry and business organisations, local and tribal authorities, the police and defence force, and other relevant organisations. Their duties were to:

Ø. advise the NPC on causes of violence and intimidation in the region;

Ø. settle disputes leading to violence and intimidation by negotiating with the parties to the dispute and recording agreements reached;

Ø. monitor all peace accords applicable in the region and settle disputes that arise from their implementation;

Ø. consult with regional authorities to limit or prevent violence and intimidation;

Ø. oversee the work of the local peace committees;

Ø. inform the NPS of efforts to prevent violence and intimidation within the region as well as breaches of the NPA;

Ø. establish reconstruction and development subcommittees; and

Ø. address matters referred to the RPC by the NPC.

[Chapter 7, NPA]

Special Criminal Courts: To be established by the Department of Justice in co-operation with local legal practitioners. Based on the premise that "an effective and credible criminal justice system requires the swift but just dispensation of justice", their function was to deal with unrest related cases more swiftly and effectively than the existing courts. They were to have special evidential and procedural rules. It was hoped that this would help to restore peace to communities by ensuring that political crimes did not fester unresolved. [Chapter 10, NPA]

Local level:

Local Peace Committees: To be comprised of representatives reflecting the needs of the relevant community. Their function was to :

Ø. create trust and reconciliation at the grassroots, including amongst the members of the security forces;

Ø. eliminate conditions detrimental to peaceful relations generally and the NPA specifically;

Ø. settle disputes leading to violence and intimidation by negotiating with the parties and recording agreements reached;

Ø. promote compliance with those specific peace accords;

Ø. reach agreement on rules and conditions for marches, rallies, and other public events;

Ø. liaise with the local police and magistrates regarding the prevention of violence and co-operate with local Justices of the Peace;

Ø. address issues referred from the NPC and the RPC; and

Ø. report to the RPC, including making recommendations as appropriate.

To ensure their proper functioning, the LPCs were to be given high status in their communities for their role in the peace process, members were to be compensated for out-of-pocket expenses, and members were to be trained in dispute resolution, meeting procedure and negotiating skills.

[Chapter 7, NPA]

Justices of the Peace: To be appointed after consultation with the relevant parties and the LPCs. Their purpose would be to promote the peace process at grassroots level and to assist the LPCs in their activities. Their duties were to include:

Ø. investigating any complaint received from anyone pertaining to public violence and intimidation, except where legal processes or investigations instituted by the South African Police or other police forces, the NPC, the RPC, the Police Reporting Officer or a commission of inquiry was already dealing with the matter.

Ø. mediating between relevant parties to a dispute by negotiation;

Ø. applying rules of natural justice when issuing an order which was to be fair and just in the particular circumstances in order to restore peaceful relations;

Ø. referring facts constituting an offence to the relevant Attorney-General;

Ø. in co-operation with parties and in consultation with the LPCs acting as their eyes and ears and reacting in urgent cases;

Ø. in all matters relating to public violence reporting to the LPC; and

Ø. pronounce as a judgment the terms of a settlement reached at LPCs or RPCs, provided that the terms of such settlement are executable.

Regional and local peace committees used the prior experience of some communities in establishing other kinds of local negotiating forums -- a mechanism which has become a South African trademark for resolving conflicts of all kinds. Some forums set up prior to the NPA were eventually given the status of peace committees because they were already perfoming similar functions. They drew on the experience of people who had earlier negotiated issues such as consumer boycotts, labour strikes, and other community-based conflicts.

The peace committees also took on the role of monitoring public events when this emerged as a crucial need. In this role, they worked closely with the security forces as well as with international observers [see below]. An NPS committee on monitoring concluded in October 1992 that "since the modus operandi differed in each region, monitoring by NPS structures should be planned and organised at a regional level within broad national guidelines". [Shaw, 1993a, p. 5] The expanded role of the committees from primarily dispute resolution to include monitoring and other activities, led to their becoming known as peace committees.

Financing of the NPA and its structures

The NPA stated that funding would be provided and administered by the Department of Justice. This role was transferred to the Department of Home Affairs in 1994. The Goldstone Commission had its own budget and fiscal arrangements. The amounts of funding to be provided were not specified in the Accord, and as a result, were often considered inadequate by the NPC/NPS. Two other key sources of funding were the South African private sector and foreign aid agencies. Some local business and civil society organisations seconded staff to the peace structures.

The provision of funding to the peace accord structures direct from government led to a perception by some that the structures were under government's control. Further, there were bureaucratic problems due to the hierarchy through which funds had to pass, and consequent delays at the level of regional and local peace committees in receiving and dispersing funds. Negotiators and others experienced delays in receiving payment. To remedy this, it was agreed that from June 1993 the NPS would administer its own funds, in accordance with agreed procedures. [Gastrow, 1995, p. 53]

For the 1993/4 financial year, the government budgeted R41.175 million. This was topped up by British and Danish contributions for training and communication equipment. The budget did not even remotely reflect the actual costs of maintaining the peace structures, as much of the work especially at local level was conducted on a volunteer basis. All peace monitors in the field were volunteers.


The composition of the National Peace Secretariat was largely a result of negotiations between the three most significant players -- the government, the ANC and the IFP. Ultimately, the NP, ANC, IFP, Democratic Party (DP), Labour Party (LP), Department of Justice and the legal profession each had one member. The representative of the legal profession, Antonie Gildenhuys, was chosen as chair. Several places were left vacant in the hope that eventually, the non-signatory parties would decide to sign and join the Secretariat.

Political violence

Political violence continued to escalate in many areas, despite the fact that the NPC, NPS and the RPCs were established and staffed reasonably quickly. The LPCs were considerably more problematic. "It was unrealistic to expect an Accord, reached at the national level, to immediately bring peace to local communities. And, although theoretically meant to preempt violence, LPCs were often set up only as a reactive measure after substantial violence had already occurred. It may take months to break down mutual suspicion sufficiently for the parties to come together and discuss the formation of a local body. It may take further weeks before an LPC is formally constituted". [Shaw, 1993a, p. 6] Further, in communities where there was peace, people did not see the need for an LPC -- it was only when violence did occur that they began to see the need and at that point, the key players were often reluctant.

The context of the violence was extremely complex, with many different interests at play, even within particular organisations. Thus, whilst some members of a party might be actively attempting to bring peace, others might see continuing violence as a means of maintaining their own hold over a particular area, or of settling old family or community scores. Or, the leadership at national level might have committed to peace, but lacked the internal party discipline to carry all their members with them.

After 18 months, eleven regional peace committees and 85 local peace committees had been established, and 30 more were in the process of being established. [Star, 4.6.93] "The peace committees are South Africa's schools of consultation, negotiation, and political tolerance... Local peace agreements have been brokered by peace committees in some of the most violence-racked communities in Natal. A fraught but ultimately successful negotiation process under peace committee auspices allowed both Inkatha and the ANC to hold rallies at adjoining venues in the East Rand on Sharpeville day. The peace committees also played a vital role in restoring peace to South Africa in the aftermath of Chris Hani's assassination." [Mail & Guardian, 18.6.93]

The peace committees were involved in trying to resolve a wide range of disputes, some overtly political and others which might have begun as economic issues but developed political overtones. These included disputes between local authorities and political parties over permits for political marches or rallies, commercial violence as in taxi disputes, rates and services boycotts in black communities, retail boycotts, industrial disputes such as hospital workers' or teachers' strikes. [Star, 28.2.94] The peace committee members and the peace monitors who the committees deployed to monitor most political events were provided with training in negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. When confrontations emerged, the committees and/or monitors acted to defuse and resolve the disputes before violence could erupt.

The peace committees themselves comprised as complete a cross-section of the community as possible -- stakeholders who had "never faced each other across the negotiating table before" came together to attempt to resolve disputes. [Star, 28.2.94] They provided neutral territory on which opposing parties could meet. In violence-ridden areas, it often took months of negotiation just to bring these stakeholders to the table. Once they began talking, facilitators attempted to help them identify the key issues underlying the conflict and then to find common ground. A structured approach and adherence to meeting procedures was a key factor in managing these discussions and keeping them on track. All the inputs were recorded in writing. Solutions were then sought and the resources required were identified. Once one problem was resolved or violence avoided, the peace committees continued to maintain their presence and role so as to be available for the next issue. These processes helped to create trust and confidence amongst the stakeholders, in some cases laying the groundwork for other forms of co-operation amongst them and/or an ability to resolve conflicts between them outside of the peace committees. They also built an understanding of some ground rules for political action which played an important role in the 1994 elections.

However, the NPC and the peace committees at all levels continued to feel considerable frustration at the lack of political will demonstrated by some parties. At the end of May 1993, John Hall, chair of the NPC, demanded that Peace Accord signatories recommit themselves to the Accord by signing it again, this time along with regional and local leadership. He said: "How can South Africans trust politicians to honour the new constitution if the National Peace Accord is not honoured to the letter? South Africans must stop killing each other. It is unthinkable that a country whose leaders are locked into sophisticated and serious negotiations to bring peace can tolerate the violence sweeping the country and threatening to destroy us all.... The NPA succeeds in spite of the political leadership and thanks to the work of the thousands of dedicated South Africans and international observers who labour day and night, often in life-threatening circumstances, to prevent the pot of violence from boiling over.... South Africans should be ashamed of the face of violence they present to the world. Enough is enough!" [Star, 27.5.93]

Stanley Mogoba, vice-chair of the NPC, said: "The lack of direction and cohesion, and the way different parties and political organisations are simply doing their own thing, is causing chaos. At this time, there is no need for armed marches, pre-dawn swoops, APLA attacks on civilians or education boycotts when the real issue is negotiation. And the process of negotiation is so far down the line that even the most myopic of politicians and military strategists should realise that resorting to violence will only delay us crossing the threshold into a new South Africa, and further harden the hearts of those who do not desire peace, justice and reconciliation... I call on these leaders, and their followers, to demonstrate their integrity by coming out strongly in favour of peace. No act of violence can be condoned, whoever the perpetrator." [Sunday Times, 30.5.93]

In a report to regional peace secretariat chairpersons and international observers, the chair of the NPS, Antonie Gildenhuys, said "In the 18 months in which we have been active, we have not managed to stamp out violence... but I think there is a marked reduction in purely political violence." He said that "the violence had shifted away from high-profile political confrontations to assassinations, taxi wars and crime. The recent fighting between Thokoza residents and hostel dwellers was an exception." [Business Day, 4.6.93]

In a June 1993 report, a negotiations technical committee on violence made a number of path-breaking proposals, eg. the establishment of a multi-party peacekeeping force before the elections, and the establishment of a national peace force or youth corps to engage youth in the peace process. The latter was intended to involve the disenchanted youth in constructive activity and thereby keep them from getting involved in violence and crime.

In August 1993, the Youth Peace Pioneer Movement was launched in Soweto. Its organisers said the main aim would be to promote ubuntu-botho and to highlight the need for political tolerance. "The organisation believes that because the youth has always been in the forefront of the struggle, no peace plan would be complete without them." [Sowetan, 2.8.93]

In late 1993, the NPA Trust set up a series of trauma counselling projects to assist victims of violence. It rapidly became clear that the problem was so huge that it required a nationally co-ordinated response. [Star, 1.12.93]

Individual peace monitors of all races and political affiliations courageously went into often very dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations to try to stop the violence. In 1993, in Thokoza and Katlehong, they had to resort to monitoring from the relative safety of armoured vehicles. They also had to deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of seeing the effects of violence day after day.

Peaceline, the Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat's emergency hotline was a vital link between the communities, local peace structures and the SAP. The Peaceline allowed community members to phone in and relate any events taking place in their communities. A conflict inventory of the peaceline by the Johannesburg and Thokoza Peace Committees gave clear prior indicators of potential violence breakouts in these communities. Peaceline was able to arrange for monitors to be present at potentially violent events and to alert the SAP if incidents were reported.

In October 1993, it was announced that pilot youth peace corps programmes were to be launched in Alexandra and Daveyton townships, under the auspices of the Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat and the NPA Trust. The Danish government donated R2m for training of between 200 and 400 volunteers. The idea was that the corps would be the 'eyes and ears' of the community by patrolling townships and liaising with political leaders and emergency services. They would monitor unrest and help with the reconstruction of areas devastated by violence. The youth would be given uniforms dissimilar to those of the security forces and political organisations, trained in a high level of discipline but not armed, and organised in a military fashion with strict lines of command. International and local experts would be involved in the training, and possibly the police and SADF as well. The youth would be chosen by communities themselves and could include members from different political parties. [Business Day, 29.10.93] Unfortunately, this initiative later fell apart. The youth became involved in criminal activity and the education crisis was not solved. Further, the NPA Trust has never accounted publicly for the funding it received.

Due to its limited mandate, the NPS was only able to treat symptoms of violence. The elimination of the causes was up to the political leadership. This led in mid-1993 to NPC proposals for strengthening the Accord to give it more teeth to enforce breaches of the code of conduct, including an arbitration procedure which would determine appropriate political sanctions (eg. public apology, suspension from parties of guilty members, etc.). This was felt to be preferable to the introduction of criminal penalties. [Mail & Guardian, 18.6.93]

In September 1993, the chair of the NPS, Antonie Gildenhuys, noted that an analysis of the peaks of political violence indicated that there were "elements in South African society bent on the disruption of the political process". He added that "political violence seems to escalate each time a milestone is reached in the negotiation process. It is necessary that a political solution be reached as soon as possible, and South Africans must demand this from the politicians. South Africa can no longer afford the violence which dogs the negotiation process." [Business Day, 3.9.93]

Socio-economic reconstruction and development

This mandate given by the NPA to the peace structures to get involved in reconstruction and development was a very broad one, unaccompanied by any specific guidelines, tasks or targets and benchmarks. It was included due to the correct analysis that poverty and competition for scarce basic resources and services were direct causes of violence. However, despite the creation of an NPC sub-committee on socio-economic reconstruction and development (SERD), little if any data was collected on a national basis in terms of what the various committees were doing with regard to this function. And, because of the constant stark reminders -- funerals, statistics of political killings, media reports, etc. -- reducing the violence took priority in most regions and localities.

Shaw wrote: "This order of priorities is inescapable: while structural inequalities do continue to feed violence, it is simply not possible to implement development projects in violence-torn areas. And development initiatives introduced to conflict ridden communities where one party is seen to benefit over the other could fuel further violence. The dilemma which faces LPCs, then, is that tackling the root causes of violence may be impossible as long as violence persists". [1993a, p. 9]

For example, late in 1993, a revealing governance issue arose in Reef townships when peace committees began to be involved in development projects. Essentially, the problem arose when local civic associations complained via SANCO (South African National Civic Association) to the National Peace Secretariat that some of the peace committees had become involved in civic organisation's preserves, eg. negotiations with authorities aimed at ending rent and services boycotts. SANCO argued that this could result in conflicts between the committees and the civics. They said that "any development project in any township should have the participation of civic structures". The Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat responded that peace committees had a mandate under the NPA to become involved in socio-economic reconstruction. They added, however, that such projects should be preceded by consultation with the "full community", including all relevant interest groups. This raised the key governance issue of representativity and whether it was justifiable for civics to argue that they alone represented the whole community. Subsequent research indicated that this was not the case. [Business Day, 26.10.93]

This situation meant that, in many of the affected communities, long-term development activities were out of the question. Some short-term projects were attempted, but whether they were sustained is not clear. In some areas, water and electricity were installed in communities, feeding schemes were provided or shelter offered to people displaced from their homes due to the violence. Some hostels were upgraded (eg. in the Wits/Vaal region). Those projects that had the greatest likelihood of succeeding were those that would clearly benefit the entire community, regardless of political affiliation, and which in their implementation would not upset existing power relations in the community, eg. immediate relief for victims of violence.

Any role taken on by the LPCs which involved them in, for example, making decisions about distribution of resources, would almost certainly compromise or even negate their ability to act as objective peace negotiators.


The Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation was established in terms of the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation Act No. 139 of 1991 to investigate the causes of violence and intimidation; recommend measures capable of containing and/or preventing cycles of violence; and initiate research programmes for the establishment of scientific empirical data on violence. [NPA, p. 23] It was later dubbed the Goldstone Commission after the judge who was appointed to head it.

"The underlying assumption behind the establishment of an investigative body was that 'violence and intimidation declines when it is investigated and when the background for it is exposed and given media attention'." [Shaw and Monyatsi, 1993, p. 1; NPA, Chapter 6, p. 22] In its various reports, the Commission found that the violence had many different causes, depending on the location, participants, history, current prevailing issues, etc. It tread a difficult path in trying to both be as objective as possible and to be perceived as such.

The following are some illustrative examples of the investigations and recommendations of the GC, all of which were one way or another aimed at promoting more effective governance -- by the government, the political parties, etc. -- especially as it related to the prevention / reduction of violence:

Public gatherings

In late April 1993, the GC proposed urgent measures to govern public gatherings. [Business Day, 30.4.93]

Train violence

In May 1993, the Goldstone Commission reported on its findings with regard to train violence in which attacks were made on passengers. The report concluded that the train violence was inextricably linked to political violence, especially the enmity between the ANC and the IFP. Both hostel dwellers and township residents were responsible for the attacks. The question of the role of a 'third force' was not resolved as no evidence was presented either way. The Commission urged that the parties promote political tolerance amongst their supporters. [Citizen, 18.5.93]

Arms caches

"The ANC's possession of arms caches was a political problem for which a political solution had to be sought", commented a GC subcommittee investigating the illegal importation, distribution and use of firearms. "The ANC accepted that its possession of firearms was unlawful in terms of existing legislation, but the historical reasons for the armed struggle had to be considered... The ANC was willing to subject Unkhonto we Sizwe to investigation and audit by an independent body if the police, SADF and KwaZulu government agreed to do the same". [Citizen, 16.4.93]

Taxi violence

In August 1993, a year after it had begun hearings on the issue, the GC issued a preliminary report on taxi violence. The committee's report listed "intolerance, selfishness, provocation and greed by taxi operators as the immediate cause of the violence". The report said that political rivalry and affiliation were not causes of taxi violence.

The report cited a number of other causes underlying the taxi conflict, including the effect of apartheid laws on urbanisation and the failure of authorities to provide even rudimentary transportation for masses of people on a daily basis; commercial factors; the Transport Department's lack of communication with taxi operators and consequent inability to anticipate problems; the lack of transparency in the issuing of permits; the lack of law enforcement and the absence of facilities. The report, however, urged that the taxi industry should not be deregulated before "informal townships and settlements become established and peaceful communities". [Business Day, 20.8.93] They provided guidelines for future regulation of the industry.


The Human Sciences Research Council conducted an investigation into hostels commissioned by the Goldstone Commission. In its report, "Communities in isolation: Perspectives on hostels in South Africa", the researchers made 28 recommendations, one of which is "that peace structures should incorporate effective rumour-control mechanisms in their operations." They concluded that "the conflict between hostel and township residents has been fuelled and fanned by distorted perceptions. Negative stereotypes will have to be corrected through community-based initiatives. Examples are local peace accords, joint community meetings, social and sport events, and the sharing of all facilities." They also suggested "strict measures banning the possession, carrying and use of dangerous weapons". Further, the report recommends "the establishment of hostel co-operatives so residents can run the hostels along democratic lines; upgrading and formalising of hostels and surrounding informal settlements; the expansion of local peace committees to become neutral negotiating forums and the development of educational programmes in townships and hostels." [Star, 31.5.93]

The HSRC report cited a number of reasons for problems related to the hostel residents and tensions between them and township residents. "Hostel residents have not been accepted as part of the surrounding community. They feel aggrieved that they are not treated like human beings, but rather like animals without any rights...Township residents perceive hostels as a threat because attacks allegedly emanate from them, because they are seen to harbour criminal elements, and because hostel residents are seen as an economic threat to the extent that they compete for or take jobs away from township residents... The hostels/townships divide cannot be addressed in isolation from the existing realities of the social, political and economic environment in which they are located." [City Press, 6.6.93]

Impact of the Goldstone Commission

"The reports produced by the Commission can be divided into three types: firstly, those which investigate specific past events, for example, the presence of Renamo soldiers in KwaZulu; those which examine a past event but draw recommendations which will be helpful for ongoing conflicts, for instance, the five interim reports on taxi-related violence which examine specific conflicts in specific areas (Alexandra, Midrand, Groblersdal) and then draw recommendations for elsewhere; finally, investigations which look entirely at a future event/s, for example, the panels which met with regard to the conduct of mass demonstrations and the prevention of violence during the election". [Shaw and Monyatsi, 1993, p. 45]

The Commission certainly succeeded in obtaining media coverage of its hearings, investigations, findings and recommendations, and thereby the attention of politicians, government, security forces, civil society and the public. However, the extent to which its recommendations had an impact on policy and practice was mixed. Out of a total of 149 recommendations made by the GC from its inception in October 1991 up to November 1993, only 21 had been totally completed, 27 recommendations had been ignored altogether, whilst progress had been made on 42 of them. Six were under discussion and the status of 24 was indeterminate. "Generally, recommendations that have been completed have been fairly specific or technical in nature with clear parameters". The most important and far-reaching ones tended to be those with which some progress was being made. "Since most of these recommendations are complex and require the agreement of many parties (often resulting in protracted negotiations), the allocation of finances and the internal efficiency of organisations and state departments, progress has often been slow". [Shaw and Monyatsi, 1993, p. 47]

Views on the Commission's effectiveness and impact varied. Whilst recognising its overall value and contribution, UNOMSA head, Angela King, criticised the GC saying that their reports took too long to complete due to lack of personnel and "by the time the results are out, the people involved are either frustrated or no longer interested, or it has become irrelevant." [Citizen, 1.2.94] The Shaw/Monyatsi report concluded that the "Commission has had a substantial influence on the debate around the causes of violence. Moreover, many of the recommendations made by the Commission have received positive attention and an effort must be made to complete the implementation of the majority of them". [1993, p. 49]

Findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

On the 29th October 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published its report in five volumes. The TRC summarised overall accountability for gross violations of human rights in its main findings and conclusions. It made findings against the National Party government, the homeland administrations, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the African National Congress, the Pan-Africanist Congress, the Third Force, the United Democratic Front, and the White right-wing.

The TRC found against the IFP on the basis of the IFP arming its supporters, making mass attacks on communities supportive of the ANC, killing ANC leaders, establishing hit squads, using special constables to kill or injure ANC members, and training of Self-Protection Units (SPUs) to prevent the 1994 elections.

It held the ANC accountable for gross human rights violations in its bombings and attacks on targets inside South Africa, its extra-judicial killing of alleged informers, enemy agents and mutineers. It also found that killings and assaults on political opponents by ANC supporters had occurred. The Self-Defence Units (SDUs) of the ANC had often taken the law into their own hands, the TRC concluded.

The TRC also made findings against particular individuals and institutions such as business, the judiciary and the media.

The IFP rejected the TRC's report as one-sided. The ANC brought a court application to prevent the publication of the report or to excise the findings on the ANC. The courts refused their application. Archbishop Tutu, the head of the Commission and also a key advocate of the NPA, dismissed the ANC's arguments as 'twaddle'.

A deeper reading of the findings of the TRC show beyond doubt that in many areas political organisations had lost disciplined control over their forces as well as control over their weaponry. In many instances, the whereabouts of these munitions remain unknown. As with the Third Force which operated with impunity with the sanction of senior police or military forces, the SPUs of the IFP and SDUs of the ANC operated on their own, often attacking defenceless communities the very communities they ostensibly existed to protect.

Whilst much more is known now as a result of the TRC investigations and hearings, than was divulged at the time of the Goldstone Commission, full and complete stories of conflict and murder will never emerge.



The National Party government was, in some ways, a 'lame-duck' government. It had committed itself to a political transition to universal suffrage and multi-party democracy which would inevitably result in it losing most if not all of its power. The opposition parties were insisting that as few decisions as possible on key policy issues should be taken by the sitting government, as it was feared that such decisions would be used to further entrench white privilege. Rather, consultation and joint decision-making were adopted as the new modes of governance. Until the formation of the Transitional Executive Council in late 1993 (check...) the government did retain control, however, over the security forces and other state agencies which could be used to further its political agenda. The government also controlled the budget provided to the NPA structures. More importantly, government continued to control development resources and their distribution -- a strong political tool.

The government did sign the Accord and participated directly in the NPA structures. As noted above, the NPA created a number of mechanisms through which government could be held accountable, as a signatory of the Accord, for violations of its underlying principles and specific codes of conduct. However, enforcement was difficult, especially due to the difficulties faced in obtaining information from state agencies on their past and current roles in political violence. During the apartheid era, agencies such as the defence forces, police and intelligence services were totally lacking in transparency and accountability. The culture and behaviour this produced could not be altered overnight.

The release of political prisoners and the unbanning of organisations by the de Klerk government in 1990 served as an indication of the good faith of the government in entering into political negotiations. As the sections which follow will demonstrate, there were over time quite serious attempts made to adjust the ways in which those agencies operated and to adhere to the NPA codes of conduct. The interactions between government officials and other stakeholders in the context of the various RPCs and LPCs provided an opportunity for communication and trust-building which had never existed before.

The Directorate for Internal Peace Institutions of the Department of Home Affairs was the key governmenal link to the NPA structures. It was responsible for providing the necessary finance and infrastructure support to the NPS and the regional and local peace committees. It was also involved in training members of the SAP and the SADF in conflict management, mediation and dispute resolution. The head of the Directorate, Deon Rudman, acknowledged the difficulties of turning around a bureaucracy used to dealing with totally different issues and in a different way. "One of the greatest challenges was to reconcile the Public Service with its rigid yet necessary regulations with a set-up where crisis situations require swift action" -- eg. providing portable telephones to peace committees in a life-or-death situation. They also had to deal with the initial mistrust and lack of credibility they faced as a government agency. "At first there was much criticism, but this has changed. At the Peace Secretariat we haven't got time any more to bicker about these trivialities. To us, the actual mission -- to bring about peace -- is much more important. The Directorate shares this view. Our conduct must prove to people that they can trust us". [van Wuk, 1993, pp. 82-85] Through its demonstrated commitment, eg. its staff venturing into dangerous situations alongside the monitors, the Directorate was able to build trust not only with the NPS and peace committees, but with the political parties as well.

Nonetheless, human rights abuses and political killings in which for which the government was ultimately responsible continued to occur. Suspicions of government involvement in the so-called 'third-force' which was seen to be trying to undermine the political negotiations through various acts of violence created ongoing tensions with the opposition parties.

Political Parties

Political parties played both constructive and destructive roles in the peace processes. They were, of course, essential to the success or failure of the Accord. Their roles varied between and within parties. Political commitment of the national party leadership to peace was not necessarily transferred to lower levels in the party. John Hall noted that: "It is the will of the political leaders to bring peace to this country that will bring peace, not the Peace Accord. The accord is something that they negotiated, something that they signed, and to make it work we require a great deal of trust.... Though the commitment of the leaders to honouring the accord must not be doubted, the problem is that there is no guarantee that the undertakings get transmitted down to lower levels." [Financial Mail, 9.4.93] In some cases, the commitment of people at the grassroots was not equalled by that at regional or national levels. The implementation by each party, then, depended to a large extent on their internal governance -- the extent to which their internal structures and procedures provided for discipline and enforcement of organisational commitments, as well as accountability and penalties for those who did not comply.

Further, as one European Union observer noted: "The fact that a high level of political intolerance still exists remains an obstacle to progress. Expression of that intolerance can be found in a policy of territorial gains and demarcation of spheres of influence, pursued by most important black political forces in some areas. It can also be seen when some black autonomous administrations refuse to allow rallies and marches in particular areas or at particular venues." [Jaoa da Silva, EU observer, in Sunday Times, 9.5.93]

The ANC recognised that it needed to take more responsibility for the behaviour of its members if it was to gain the confidence of the majority of people in the country, beyond its stalwart supporters. The idea of ANC marshals rose to prominence in dealing with the funeral and other proceedings in the aftermath of the Chris Hani assassination. It marked a significant step towards co-operation between the ANC and the security forces, especially the SAP.

The Wits/Vaal regional peace secretariat brokered an agreement whereby the marshals would form the first line of defence, the peace monitors the second, and the SAP only the third. "The compromise has given police the confidence that , when they act, they do so only as a last resort after other methods have failed. In turn, the ANC has grudgingly acknowledged -- and therefore legitimised -- the need for a low-key police presence to deal with matters should they get out of hand....Police have come to realise that the maintenance of order is not their sole preserve. They have seen how marshals are the obvious force to control the immediate peripheries of demonstrations." [Business Day, 7.5.93] The deal involved government agreeing not to declare 19 unrest areas on the Reef and the ANC alliance agreeing to take responsibility to ensure that demonstrations would be peaceful. This largely worked.

In May 1993, the Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat undertook to train marshals in crowd control, self-defence, crisis response, conflict resolution and first aid. [Star, 20.5.93] "The marshals' strength and influence lies in their allegiance to the group they are regulating... The fact that they are members of the same organisation as the marchers gives them the authority to hold people back, make arrests if necessary, or alter the route of a demonstration." [comments by a Commonwealth trainer, Weekly Mail & Guardian, 12.11.93] This increased the collective sense of responsibility that marshals felt for the behaviour of their party members, and helped to build a culture of political tolerance.

This responsibility grew, when in June 1993, the ANC said that its marshals would search participants in marches or other mass action demonstrations to ensure that they were not carrying dangerous weapons. This was part of a set of mass action guidelines prepared for circulation to all ANC branches. [Business Day, 4.6.93]

Also in June 1993, Nelson Mandela called on the signatories of the NPA to strengthen the Accord in a "mass movement for peace" and to unite around the tentative April 1994 date for elections. He said "We can no longer delay our coming together again as signatories of the peace accord to strengthen it, revisit the source of violence and give peace a fresh momentum." He indicated that solutions to violence could be found only through "collective efforts" by all political leaders. [Star, 7.6.93]

Unfortunately, these extremely positive developments were not helped by some inherently contradictory statements made by political parties. For example, the ANC Tumahole branch issued a statement saying: "We warn all those forces that are against peace in our community that we will have to force peace and democracy and justice down their throats, even if it means through the sacrifice of our blood and property". [Star, 10.6.93] Other parties experienced similar situations. Clearly, such statements sent mixed messages to members on the ground.

Self-defence units (SDUs) made up of township youths were set up in communities to defend and protect those communities, began themselves to terrorise those communities. "Many of the SDUs were running amok. Schoolgirls were being raped, residents were being forced to part with money for bullets and guns to destroy the enemy, and motorists were being dragooned into service to carry the 'comrades' to their battlefronts -- and to funerals." [Star, 11.12.93] In reaction to the SDUs, the IFP set up self-protection units (SPUs). These groups were constantly at loggerheads, sometimes protecting people and other times murdering people on the other side or even on their own side. They became a cover for criminal activity, including murder, bank robbery, taxi violence, etc.

Sydney Mufamadi, head of the ANC's national peace desk, wrote that "political leaders have the onerous responsibility of tilting the balance away from democracy as a cause of conflict to democracy as a cure of the social malady of violence and confrontation". Specifically, he proposed that any party or organisation considering holding a demonstration should ensure that:

Ø. It has given priority to promote peace.

Ø. This action will avoid deliberate provocation of opponents.

Ø. The structures of the Peace Accord are kept fully informed and are utilised to maximum effect.

Ø. Good faith negotiations occur with all interested parties and the security forces regarding the proposed action." [Star, 23.6.93]

The Conservative Party (CP) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), as non-signatories, continued to publicly denigrate the Peace Accord. The CP asserted that the NPA was not worth the paper it was written on and urged a boycott of peace structures. [Citizen, 24.6.93] The PAC said that the NPA was better known internationally for its failures than its successes. In bilateral discussions with the government, it said that it would only cease hostilities when there was an agreement on the constituent assembly and the transitional authority. Patricia de Lille said "Once we go for elections, there is no need for armed struggle." In late June 1993, the NPC invited the PAC, the CP, and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) to a meeting in order to try to persuade them to sign the Peace Accord. This did not succeed.

Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary-general of the ANC, said in an interview: "The Peace Accord structures have done marvelous work, operating against incredibly difficult odds. But one of the reasons for the weakness... is lack of resources. Peace workers say if they have resources, they can do up to three times more than now. They are hamstrung because the government has not allocated sufficient resources, and the private sector has not yet seen its way clear to do so. I believe the peace structures could still be one of the vehicles that turn the tide of violence". [Star, 19.7.93] He also noted the obligation of political parties to make sure that tolerance becomes part of the political culture.

South African Police

In the early 1990s, the South African Police (SAP) did not have the confidence of most of the black communities across the country. They were regarded as instruments of the oppressive state. Black policemen in black communities were mostly considered to be sell-outs and traitors to their own people and were often themselves subjected to harassment and intimidation by communities. They were considered to be corrupt, and involved in harassing communities as well as in many cases, directly fomenting or engaging in violence. SAP credibility was extremely low and it was clear that they had to make major adjustments in their approach to law enforcement and community relations, as well as in their internal training and discipline if they expected to make a positive contribution towards peace.

COMSA took the view that South Africa was underpoliced, making the rule of law and administration of justice more difficult. The SAP's role was therefore complemented by the SADF, the homeland police forces, the traffic police, and the military wings of some of the political parties, as well as a burgeoning sector of private armed security agencies which patrolled mostly white middle-class areas. This disparate responsibility made co-ordinated effort more difficult and complicated the credibility / legitimacy issue. [Commonwealth Secretariat, Phase I, 1993, pp. 41-42]

By mid-1993, when the Peace Accord had been in place for about 18 months, the National Peace Secretariat reported to Parliament that the SAP's image was improving, but that its impartiality was still not "universally established". The NPS noted the establishment of a community relations department within the SAP as well as the role of foreign experts in training the police as positive factors. [Star, 14.5.93]

The LPCs gave the police a forum to air their own concerns and views to the other stakeholders, whilst also providing for monitoring of police activities. In some areas, the LPCS and RPCs joined with the police to form Joint Operation / Communication Centres to monitor violence and deploy the necessary mediators or security forces to calm the situations. These centres were replicated under the Independent Electoral Commission for the April 1994 election and played a major role in establishing the conditions for a free and fair election.

Under the NPA, a system of Police Reporting Officers was established to investigate and report on police conduct. In principle, this system was to provide civil society through peace accord structures with an opportunity to monitor police behaviour, and to hold them accountable. Attorneys and advocates were appointed as independent facilitators to ensure that complaints against the SAP were dealt with properly by a special investigative task force.

However, in mid-1993, the Reporting Officer for the Witwatersrand, Jan Munnik, said that the system was not working due to a lack of commitment by the police, and even outright resistance and obstruction by certain SAP officers. For example, Munnik said that Reporting Officers had been prevented from examining police dockets, that too few SAP officers were allocated to these investigations and that there was little or no co-ordination of their work. Whilst Munnik had referred between 25 and 30 cases regarding allegations of police involvement in murder, assault, harassment, torture and bribery, not one investigation had been completed. Further, the police often disputed whether matters referred to them fell under their ambit of investigation, despite clear provision in the Peace Accord that Reporting Officers should decide this.

As a result of these problems, people did not have faith in the reporting system. "This manner of keeping the police in check is unique to South Africa, so teething problems must be expected. But, unless total commitment is shown by the SAP, noone is going to believe their claims that they want to improve their image." Discussions were held between Munnik and the police general, and attempts were to be made to deal with these problems. The SAP claimed that the system was working better in other regions. [Sunday Times, 6.6.93]

On a more positive note, in July 1993, Munnik reported on a gang of 100 plus police known as the Yankees, who were accused in about 30 affadavits of torture and other human rights abuses. His report resulted in the immediate disbanding of the Yankees -- their activites had been common knowledge but it was only with the evidence that he and the peace committees were able to generate that the SAP acted. Munnik argued forcefully that follow-up investigations of the police should be conducted by units independent of the police hierarchy to ensure their objectivity, and that Reporting Officers should have a say in their selection.

In April 1992, also as part of the NPA, a Police Board was established to advise the Law and Order Minister on policy regarding the SAP, including promotion, recruitment and training of officers. The Minister had set up a committee to investigate and develop new training methods, including three international advisers from Zimbabwe, the UK, and the USA. "The main goal of the proposals is to stop police academies from churning out military-style law enforcers and get them to start producing community-oriented police officers adept at solving local problems." The committee's paper concluded that "They have to become more autonomous from superiors, more community-accountable and more concerned with finding long-term solutions to community problems of safety, security and public disorder. The community police officer's major social contract is to be with the law-abiding rather than -- as in traditional bandit-catching policing -- with the perpetrators of crime." The report recommended the forging of links between the police and civic associations and welfare agencies, and the integration of community leaders into the police officer corps. It was also suggested that civilians be used for certain elements of the training to ensure that the police kept in touch with real community life. Whilst some felt that the proposals were overly idealistic, they certainly provided important long-term goals for a new approach to community policing. [Weekly Mail, 2.7.93]

Later that month, the NPS and the Police Board arranged a workshop on Police - Community Relations, attended by 50 police generals and brigadiers and a large contingent of their critics, "many of whom were people they would be more used to speaking to in cells than in hotels". [Sunday Star, 4.7.93] The workshop was attempting to introduce the concept that the police were part of the community and accountable to the community -- "servants of the people". The workshop also began to debunk the notion that "any single faction should delude itself that it represented an entire community" -- and rather to stress that a community included everyone -- of whatever persuasion -- who lived in it. [Bishop Storey, quoted in Sunday Star, 4.7.93] This point was reiterated by a Mr. Mojalefa who said "It's time to get past the idea that the community means the ten most vociferous people around." [ibid.] This idea has become an essential part of the principles of community governance, police accountability and citizen participation in the new South Africa.

In July 1993, the GC released a report which stressed that the SAP bore ultimate responsibility for the protection of life and property in South Africa. Low-profile policing did not mean putting themselves in a position where they were unable to fulfill this responsibility. The report also said that "as far as possible, the South African Defence Force should not be deployed in a situation for which it was not trained or is not intended". It advocated joint planning and consultation prior to any event, adequate training for marshals (by police where appropriate), and the use of joint operation centres including organisers, peace monitors and observers as well as police. It also said that organisations which organise marchers where damage occurs "which could have reasonably been prevented" should bear civil liability for damages. [Citizen, 10.7.93]

After an investigation, the GC said the SAP were guilty of "dereliction of duty" at the World Trade Centre when armed AWB right-wingers stormed the building. "Not to have had an unambiguous, strong and visible show of force, at least at the entrace to the World Trade Centre on the morning of June 25, can only be regarded as a dereliction of duty on the part of those officers of the SAP responsible for the absence thereof. The perpetrators met with no effective resistance at all." However, the report also said that the police had correctly decided not to use force inside the Centre as that might have resulted in a bloodbath. The GC warned the police not to take the AWB's word in future that a meeting would be peaceful and urged the police to distance themselves from the AWB. There was much agreement that the AWB's racist statements and activities were provoking a backlash against the Afrikaner people as whole -- the people they claimed to protect. [Business Day, 16.7.93]

In the context of political rivalry and violence in Crossroads squatter settlement in the Western Cape, it was acknowledged by the police that special constables had taken sides in the conflict -- "in order to stay alive". As residents of that community themselves, the constables and their families were subject to intimidation and violence if they did not support the ruling faction. As a result, the constables provided misinformation to the SAP and warned their allies of police raids. Police officials admitted that the 'wrong type' of policeman were operating in the area and that policing overall was inadequate. [Business Day, 21/22.7.93]

In December 1993, the GC uncovered evidence of a KwaZulu Police hit squad, responsible for murdering at least nine people, including ANC leaders and members. The individuals arrested for operating the hit squad had received training from the SADF in the Caprivi in 1986. (see below) The issue was referred to the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) so that it would take action with regard to the KZP and the homeland administration. [Star, 8.12.93] This discovery reinforced calls for the TEC to take control of all security forces in the country and to act decisively to ensure free political activity, especially in the lead up to the April 1994 election. The IFP, of course, protested vociferously at the timing of the GC's report and claimed it was an attempt to discredit the IFP just before the election.

In late July 1993, the Wits/Vaal Peace Committee, represented by Bishop Storey and Phiroshaw Camay, reached significant agreements with the SAP which would greatly increase the communication between them and most importantly, gave the peace structures several different means of holding the SAP accountable for their actions. The agreements included:

Ø. A visitors programme which would allow a panel of respected citizens the right of access to all police cells and other places of detention to enable them to monitor the conditions of detainees.

Ø. The declaration of unrest areas in the Wits/Vaal region would be subject to consultation.

Ø. The SAP would notify the local peace committee chairman of any intention to undertake major action or to react to any political clash in a local area to enable peace monitoring.

Ø. The regional Police Reporting Officer would be able to examine, assess and report back on police investigations of specific cases, subject to the Attorney-General's agreement.

Ø. The SAP would report to the regional peace committee on trends in political violence in the region and respond to parties' requests for information about specific cases.

Ø. All arrests would be registered at local police stations and these stations would also be immediately notified of any arrests, attempted arrests and removal of witnesses made by specialised police units.

Ø. People in custody would be entitled to contact family or legal advisers as soon as possible after their arrest.

Ø. Police / community relations sub-committees would be set up in each local peace committee.

Whilst these were understandings rather than formal agreements, it was fully expected that they would be adhered to by both the peace committees and the SAP. Provision was also made to evaluate their implementation. [Citizen, 23.7.93]

South African Defence Force

As with the SAP, the SADF generally lacked credibility in terms of its ability to serve in a peace-keeping capacity. It was perceived to be firmly on the side of the apartheid government, and it was known to have committed abuses against black communities and organisations within SA as well as against the liberation movement inside and outside the country. Even after the signing of the NPA, the SADF was found by the Goldstone Commission to have been involved in "dirty tricks" operations against the political opponents of the government,

In June 1993, the GC announced its findings with regard to several matters raised by the Weekly Mail. The GC found that the SADF had in fact trained about 200 IFP supporters in the Caprivi in 1986 at the request of the KwaZulu Police (KZP). This was paid for out of a secret SADF account. The GC asserted that such practices had ceased. However, the GC found that there was no proof to suggest that the SADF provided the training to establish 'hit squads' and cleared the SADF of involvement in specific recent cases of violence, eg. in Natal. The GC concluded that "The Weekly Mail was justified in publishing much of the information although some extravagant allegations which went further than the facts relied upon were published. The newspaper did not, however, abuse the freedom of the press". [Citizen, 24.6.93] The newspaper was acting in the public interest and its inaccuracies occurred "in large part because the newspaper was greeted with a wall of official silence and obfuscation." [Star, 24.6.93] Further, the GC noted that the SADF and KZP had exacerbated the public's lack of confidence in them by trying to cover up the facts about their involvement.

General Liebenberg of the SADF responded that the "problem situation dates to a period when the Defence Force was involved in the combatting of terrorism and attacks directed at all population groups in South Africa....The public is given the assurance that what was seen as unacceptable practices have ceased." [Citizen, 24.6.93]

In July 1993, the IFP accused the SADF of assaulting its members whilst conducting weapons searches in the Umbumbulu district outside Durban. The Natal/KwaZulu Regional Dispute Resolution Committee said it would investigate immediately. [Citizen, 2.7.93]

Transkei military leader, Major-General Bantu Holomisa, accused the GC of ignoring evidence of security force complicity in the political violence. "Goldstone is merely papering over the cracks. The commission is a sham instrument to bluff and delude black South Africans and the international community into believing that de Klerk is perturbed at the slaughter of blacks when in reality his security forces foment the violence." [Citizen, 2.7.93]

In Khayelitsha outside Cape Town, the Commandant of the SADF agreed that community leaders would in future accompany his troops whenever a patrol was to be made and that the army would not take action without the consent of the community. He also promised to take action against any member of the force implicated in misconduct. This followed complaints that the army was harassing and terrorising residents during patrols and raids, and that they were not doing enough to curb violence, especially taxi violence. [Citizen, 23.7.93]

In October 1993, Justice Goldstone said there is 'strong circumstantial evidence' of security force involvement in current violence. He said there was proof of covert, criminal activity having been undertaken by the security forces in the 1980s. He said that whilst the Commission had followed up every lead given to it on the alleged 'third force' it still lacked conclusive proof as to who was responsible.

Traditional Leaders

"In many areas, tribal chiefs fear the process of political transition will weaken their age-old authority. As a result they have not always co-operated in the peace process, and this has led to problems in setting up [peace] structures in rural areas. The chiefs were not drawn into the initial negotiations, and they did not sign the peace accord. This has turned out to be a political error with high costs, as it has taken a long time to make them agree to give open support to the peace cause." [Jaoa da Silva, Sunday Times, 9.5.93] Further, tribal chiefs were also often not consulted before implementation of the NPA in areas under their control. This created suspicion and mistrust which was difficult to overcome. [Star, 20.7.93]

In KwaZulu/Natal, violence was particularly rife. Traditional Zulu society, with its strict hierarchy of the King, amakhosi and indunas, still played a crucial role in the political life there. The links between the traditional authorities and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were very strong, and therefore they were drawn into the political conflict between the IFP and the ANC. Traditional leaders became the targets of the ANC as well as other groups allied to them such as civics, unions and others who felt there was no longer a place for such a "paternalistic and feudal" system in a democratic South Africa. Chiefs were also seen "as the pillars of the bantustan system of government and a symbol of apartheid". Weapons such as AK-47s, were commonplace on both sides of the conflict [Commonwealth Secretariat, 1993, Phase II, p. 19]

The ANC and IFP were and still are locked in a struggle for domination of KwaZulu/Natal. Some mediators, eg. the COMSA team, tried to persuade the traditional authorities that they should remain above party politics in order to retain the respect of people of different parties and religions. They tried to emphasise that, in a democracy, chiefs had to respect the rights of all people. But they also tried to reassure the chiefs that democracy did not necessarily mean the abolition of traditional leadership. It would, however, mean integration of traditional structures into democratic systems. [ibid., p. 21]

COMSA noted the following lessons:

Ø. Chiefs need to be reassured that peaceful co-existence of different political parties in their territories is possible;

Ø. Political parties need to spell out clearly their policies towards traditional authorities; and

Ø. Change and democracy are not aimed at abolishing tradition and respect for status of chief.

It was hoped that by removing the fear and speculation of the chiefs, that a basic cause of the violence would disappear. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and the conflict continues even in 1999.

The role of traditional leaders was perhaps most significant in the homelands established by the apartheid government. Some of the homeland leaders signed the NPA, but others did not. They felt that the provisions of the Accord would directly undermine their authority and threaten their power. This created major constraints for the implementation of the NPA in those areas.

SA Civil Society Organisations

Co-operation between the national NPA structures and national CSOs was practically non-existent. At the regional and local levels, their relationship was sometimes co-operative, sometimes competitive, and sometimes distrustful. Some CSOs were seen to be partisan and therefore direct links with the peace structures might have compromised the impartiality which was essential to the NPA. Other CSOs provided essential information and services to the NPA and complemented their role in various ways.

Human rights monitoring

Civil society organisations involved in human rights monitoring included the Human Rights Commission (later changed to Committee), the South African Institute of Race Relations, the Black Sash, the Legal Resources Centre, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the South African Council of Churches, and so on. These organisations provided important information bases for the NPA structures.

In July 1993, the SACC held a conference which focussed on the NPA. Participants criticised the NPA, especially the government funding of and influence in the Secretariat, expressing concern that the Accord might be hijacked by government. In a report by an ecumenical monitoring programme established in 1992 to bring international religious representatives to the country to monitor violence, mention was made of serious flaws in the NPA mechanisms. "Many signatories have subsequently ignored its principles. We believe that application of the Accord focuses on violations of the black community but does not hold government and its homeland structures to the same accountability."

At the same meeting, SACC general secretary, Rev. Frank Chikane proposed that a call be made to the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to co-ordinate election monitoring in South Africa. The religious groups also planned to be involved in internal civil society election monitoring and in non-partisan voter education. It was also agreed to set up a panel of religious leaders to collectively announce election results and to intervene in disputes between political parties if necessary. [Business Day, 8.7.93]

Divisions, however, existed between and within the various SACC member churches in terms of their views on the value of continuing to participate in the NPA structures. Frustration was expressed at the relative impotence of the churches in putting a stop to the violence. An issue which, somewhat ironically, was the focus of angry debate was the use of racist slogans by various political organisations on the left and right. Chikane attacked both sides, but elicited objections when he condemned the black left's use of slogans such as "kill the boer, kill the farmer" and "one settler, one bullet". His proposed resolution was so watered down by the conference as to be virtually meaningless. Thus, even members of the church were not totally opposed to the use of racist rhetoric.

Other positions taken by the SACC appeared to be somewhat contrary to the objective of building tolerance and peace. They were self-contradictory as well. On the one hand, the SACC said that the NPA does not have the capacity to deal with covert violence -- largely perceived in the townships to be instigated by whites. Chikane said "the (township) people say whites are behind the covert operations which led to blacks fighting one another. Then more whites come in as peace monitors to keep the blacks apart." On the other, the SACC recorded its appreciation of the 'sacrificial commitment' of thousands of people across the country in combatting violence -- monitors who it said were too predominantly white. The SACC argued for greater involvement of the oppressed communities in the NPA through training, otherwise the NPA would be discredited in the eyes of black people. [Star, 22.7.93]

There was ongoing debate about the racial and gender composition of the NPA structures. The Wits/Vaal regional peace committee reported in mid-1993 that it currently deployed 600 peace monitors, 95% of whom were black....[Sunday Times, 25.7.93] Angela King, head of UNOMSA, said that in the 200 local peace committees, there were only four women chairpersons, and of the 11 Police Reporting Officers, only one was a woman. She encouraged political parties to bring more women into party structures and other national structures. [Citizen, 1l2l94] The COMSA reported earlier that year that: "It is encouraging to note the broadening participation in the Peace Accord structures in many localities. But the racial and gender imbalance, especially at the senior levels, continues to be a concern, not least because the issue is so often side-stepped at policy meetings. Unless the Peace Accord truly mirrors the society it serves, its efficacy will be weakened." [Commonwealth Secretariat, Phase II, 1993, p. 46]

The Rev. Stanley Mogoba, Bishop of the Methodist Church of SA and Deputy Chairman of the NPA, in a frank interview with the Sowetan published on 12.10.93, again raised the issue of the 'sidelining' of the churches after the signing of the NPA. He noted the key role they had played in the Rustenberg Conference and then in bringing the parties together at the Carlton Conference where the Accord was finalised. He said that once the NPA was signed and operationalised, in many areas the churches sat back and waited to see what would happen. He acknowledged that it was only when violence did not abate as people had hoped, that some church members started again to speak out and complain that they had been marginalised. However, where church leaders made an effort to get involved in peace committees, they were welcomed and able to play an important role. He urged churches not to wait to be invited to join the peace committees, but to be proactive. He also stressed the importance for the churches not to take sides in the conflict.


Many civil society organisations were involved in the peace structures, particularly to assist in monitoring violence and in playing conflict resolution roles in communities where violence was prevalent.

The capacity built by civil society organisations to mediate industrial disputes helped build CSO capacity to mediate community conflict. In the early 1980s, South African activists and academics had invited representatives from the UK-based Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the US-based Federal Mediation Services to train and assist in establishing private mediation and arbitration as the alternative to expensive and time-consuming Labour Court procedures then existing in South Africa.

This capacity was put to good use in beginning to deal with community conflict. The National Peace Secretariat designated several CSOs in the different regions as convenors of peace committees to invite participants, explain the rationale and motivate political party structures and other stakeholders to participate in peace committees. These CSOs often acted as the secretariat in the initial phases and, where members of a peace committee could not agree on a chairperson, the CSOs ensured the appointment of a neutral facilitator / mediator as chairperson.

A number of CSOs also had experience in monitoring human rights violations or violence. The profiles and reports produced by these organisations assisted in indicating levels of violence, the sources of violence, and the actors involved. These reports were the precursor to the Goldstone Reports contextualising the political violence. Several organisations monitored the role of the SADF and the SAP.

Some of these CSOs acted independently and others co-operated with the NPS. Staff migration from the CSOs to the NPS and vice versa also occurred in several regions, depending on the availability of resources and the presentation of new research opportunities.

Many CSOs released mediators or trained new community mediators for the work of the Peace Secretariat. Many also released their staff to be trained as peace monitors. Others accepted training from the NPS and then established their own peace observation units. When, in crisis moments, the NPS requested volunteer peace monitors, disciplined CSOs were always the ones able to offer the largest number of reliable monitors. The Methodist Church and the Quaker Peace Movement in particular were reliable sources of human resources. Women's groups too were especially helpful in sorting out equipment, testing radios, ensuring allocation of vehicles and teams, setting up communication networks, providing refreshments, assisting with pre-monitoring briefings and post-monitoring debriefs. Volunteer psychologists were also helpful in assisting peace monitors to deal with the trauma of monitoring. Victim counselling was also a referral service offered by the NPS when circumstances required.

There were differing perspectives on the extent to which the NPS and CSOs worked effectively together. In their study, Ball and Spies noted that: "Peace committees were not the only organisations in South Africa during the transition to majority rule that provided mediation services....a number of NGOs already in existence were providing mediation services to communities. Some of them felt they were in competition with the peace committees for funding and that the peace committees did not sufficiently integrate NGOs into their work. Others felt there had been productive collaboration between existing NGOs and the peace committees. It was not possible in the course of this study to assess the relative merits of these differing perceptions. Both appear to have some degree of validity." [1997, p. 17]


Meeting of leaders

The role of church leaders was sometimes significant in building prospects for peace. In June 1993, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Stanley Mogoba brokered a meeting between ANC leader Nelson Mandela and IFP leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Getting these two key players together had earlier been a major obstacle to calling a meeting of the signatories of the NPA in an attempt to strengthen the Accord and to promote the negotiations for a future constitution. [Star, 7.6.93] The meeting took place later that month. NPS officials commented afterwards: "The role of the church and religious bodies as peacemakers in society cannot be too highly commended. A most meaningful result of the nine hours of discussion on the East Rand yesterday [between Mandela and Buthelezi] must surely be the consensus of both leaders to bury the past and resolve to maintain ongoing, open lines of communication. Such communication removed a huge obstacle in the way of peace and would be reinforced by the appearance of the two leaders on joint platforms". [Business Day, 25.6.93]

CSO action

In August, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) held a conference to review the NPA and help give it punitive powers. Nadel invited leaders of signatory organisations to jointly assess the NPA's strengths and weaknesses, and to agree measures which could further improve its impact.

Citizen action

On 15 August 1993, 40,000 people gathered at the Wanderers to vote for peace. At this demonstration of ordinary citizens in support of peace, people were encouraged to participate in the peace campaign due to begin on 2 September. The key message was the need for people to show the politicians how they feel and to insist on the political will to achieve peace.

National Peace Day and Campaign

In September 1993, a two-week national campaign to promote the cause of peace was launched. The campaign was co-ordinated by a committee comprised of representatives from business, labour, religious, education, police, security forces, youth, women, welfare, health, entertainment, media, art and culture, sport and other organisations. More than 70 national organisations took part. It began with a National Peace Day, marked by a five-minute traffic standstill and church services. Peace ribbons were worn throughout the two weeks and organisations signed peace pledges. [Business Day, 13.7.93] "The emphasis of the campaign will be to have everyone own and endorse the initiative by becoming involved -- the NPS is merely the facilitator". [Jayendra Naidoo, quoted in Star, 15.7.93]

People from all walks of life turned out in support of National Peace Day. It was described as a 'historic turning point' and 'a spectacular success'. One commentator wrote: "The demonstration, involving hundreds of thousands of citizens, was aimed not at the gangsters and warlords who are, in any case, beyond the appeal of humanity and justice. It was directed at our political leaders. It was a clear signal of impatience of ordinary people with the squirming, posturing and war talk of the politicians. It was a rejection of those leaders' ambivalence towards the plight of ordinary people who are daily pillaged by criminals and murdered by ideologues, their security, property and family life put at risk as the politicians squabble. This week 'The People', in its truest meaning, wrote a simple yet compelling message to the World Trade Centre: do not waste our time; do not take our patience for granted; do not even think of forgetting us." [Sunday Times, 5.9.93]

Even the taxi associations -- usually thought of as a major source of violent conflict -- joined the peace campaign as Taxis for Peace. The Southern African Black Taxi Association (SABTA), the South African Long Distance Taxi Association (SALDTA), the National African Federated Taxi Organisation (NAFTO) and the Federated National Transport Organisation (FNTO) all agreed to display peace posters on their taxis for the last three months of 1993. This effort was launched by Shell, as part of a road safety campaign.

Various other civil society initiatives emerged to promote peace and tolerance, particularly aimed at the youth of South Africa. For instance, in July 1993, the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA) and the South African Communication Service (SACS) organised the Natal Youth Convention for young people from across the political spectrum. The conference -- a co-operative venture between a CSO and a government agency -- focussed on how the youth could, in practical ways, contribute towards changing South Africa. [Rothwell, 1993, p. 106] In early 1994, 140 township youth organisations, churches and schools formed the Rainbow Youth Peace Campaign. The campaign planned a series of development projects to give youth direction, to inspire them to create lives for themselves and to create an environment of calm, trust and tolerance. [Citizen, 24.1.94] It was hoped that participation of youth in these activities and campaigns would form a generation of South Africans who would not resort to violence to solve problems.


The important role played by the business community in the process of negotiating the NPA has been discussed above. In mid-June 1993, the Consultative Business Movement (CBM) released a special set of guidelines on how private companies could take peace-building initiatives and participate in peace structures. Several key points were made:

Ø. Business should make a conscious decision to enter the peace process and accept the full implications, eg. the commitment of human, physical and financial resources.

Ø. Business should involve the trade unions from the start in determining how best to expedite the peace process. Because of their knowledge of their own communities, union members should take the lead in setting priorities for involvement.

Ø. Business should approach the regional dispute resolution committee, organisations like the CBM, or local business chambers for guidance on what they can do.

Ø. Business must follow an inclusive process, involving all actors including political parties, community groups, and development agencies.

Ø. Business should commit to the the process as a long-term and sustainable effort to uplift communities.

Ø. Businesses can assist by popularising the Peace Accord and communicating progress, eg. through meetings with employees, use of company newsletters, etc.

[Star, 15.6.93]

At the same time various members of commerce and associations of industry also ensured that their representatives participated in local and regional peace committees. These business representatives often played a crucial role in brokering and maintaining the peace. They also made resources available which the NPS was reluctant or unable to provide at the local level, eg. catering companies provided food and car hire companies provided vehicles for peace monitors.

"One of the reasons that peace was restored to Alexandra... was because business around the township got involved. Money and resources were poured in and the peace structures became effective. Businesses around Thokoza and Katlehong have done very little, with one or two exceptions, like Dulux. No reconstruction, apart from some individual work by people living in the township, has been embarked upon and peace structures need greater support." [Peter Harris, quoted in Sunday Star, 14.11.93]

The following are several examples of ways in which the business sector got involved in the peace efforts. It is difficult to assess their impact.

Ø. Many large and small businesses placed paid advertisements in the press to demonstrate their support for the Accord.

Ø. In honour of National Peace Day on 2 September 1993, two key utility companies -- Eskom and Telkom -- made a commitment to address the short-term supply of electricity and telephones to priority areas such as the East and West Rand. This commitment was made under the auspices of the NPS and helped to link peace to socio-economic issues. [Business Day, 31.8.93]

Ø. In late 1993, a black business leader joined with members of political , civic, business and church organisations to establish the Township and Quality in 1993 Foundation in Thokoza. It had the backing of large companies such as Pick'n Pay, ABI, Spoornet, SAB, as well as the British embassy. "The scheme involved job creation, education and training, sports and recreation, and literary, arts and music programmes. Youths, school-leavers and unemployed workers would be exposed to work opportunities through communication with big business and the labour market." [Business Day, 6.12.93]

Ø. In early 1994, the Institute of Personnel Management sent a letter to its 8,500 members urging them to become involved in the peace process. They received a positive response, with members offering expertise, company training facilities, training materials and courses. They also offered assistance with administration and preparation of job descriptions for the NPS. The IPM put together a peace pack with general election information, employee assistance options and voter education information. [Star, 28.2.94]

The private sector was, however, represented ineffectively on peace committees. They were generally only interested when issues directly concerned them, eg. stayaways or marches in industrial areas. Whilst they paid for NPA paraphernalia, they tended to use the peace structures for self-promotion or as part of their social responsibility work.

Many businesses were also disenchanted with increasing violence in industrial areas. Many factories and plants stand idle today because business downsized their operations, relocated or migrated.

SA Media

In April 1993, the NPA launched a media campaign to promote peace in SA. The slogan was "Peace in our Land". "The campaign was created by Hunt Lascaris TBWA and, if paid for, would have cost millions of rands. Fortunately, the whole campaign is being done free of charge. The agency has donated its creative skills and the media -- the SABC, Radio 702, Times Media Ltd. and M-Net among them -- have generously contributed free media time and space." [Star, 24.4.93]

The campaign had three phases:

1.. Awareness phase: aimed at getting people to become aware of the Peace Accord symbols and to create an environment which stimulates people to think about peace.

2.. Visionary phase: aimed at demonstrating the benefits of living in a better society

3.. Research phase: workshops to involve people at whom the campaign is directed

The campaign was to become increasingly goal oriented, involving as many people as possible. [Star, 24.4.93]

Some participants in the peace process felt that the media and others were too quick to blame the peace structures when violence occurred. Deon Rudman, of Home Affairs' Directorate for Internal Peace Institutions, and member of the NPS, said: "What they forget, however, are the many disputes that we have resolved which would definitely have caused violence. This seldom appears in the press for a simple reason -- when we resolve a dispute nothing happens. It is a non-event. If we don't, violence follows. That is sensational and newsworthy". [van Wuk, 1993, p. 85]

"The Goldstone Commission has asked the Press Council to investigate whether media coverage has helped incite or perpetuate violence. The Commission is concerned about the extent to which reporting of 'false rumours' or allegedly unsubstantiated claims may have contributed to deteriorating community relationships...These are charges which merit examination, not only by the Press Council and the journalists themselves, but also by the political publicists who have become so adept at twisting events to suit their own purposes." [Business Day, 3.6.93]

Journalists were attacked, and in some cases killed, whilst covering township violence. The media expressed concerns about "killing the messenger" [City Press, 6.6.93] However, as the HSRC report on hostels noted, the media needed to be much more sensitive and strategic in its reporting so as not to exacerbate tensions by "too readily giving alleged participants in the conflict political and ethnic labels". Newspaper headlines where hostels were called "death factories, breeding grounds of violence, fortresses of fear, hostels of hate" clearly did not help calm the situation. Hostel residents felt they were being unfairly judged by "the emotive choice of words by sensationalist journalists." [City Press, 6.6.93] These different perspectives appeared in the same newspaper on the same day.

Justice Goldstone, however, also stressed the role of the media in holding authorities accountable to the public. "It is even more important in a society which is not yet a democracy and which is in political transition. The committee believes that investigative journalists should in no way be... prevented from pursuing their lawful objectives." He warned the authorities not to act in a way that would intimidate journalists and prevent them from exposing unlawful or unsatisfactory conduct by the government or political parties and organisations. [Star, 23.6.93]


Various donors -- local and international -- contributed to the National Peace Accord and its structures. For example, the British government funded a training programme, taught by Commonwealth police officers, for political party marshals. This included training courses for IFP, ANC, NP and PAC marshals. The content of the training was agreed by political parties and police. [Weekly Mail & Guardian, 12.11.93] Other donors such as the European Union, Japan, Scandinavian countires, and USAID also contributed to the NPA at national, regional and local levels. This assistance took various forms, including the provision of peace insignia, flags, button,s T-shirts, radio equipment, hiring of vehicles, seconding staff, payment for mediators, etc.

The United Nations Observer Mission to SA (UNOMSA) and other international organisations (eg. Commonwealth, European Union, Organisation of African Unity)

The international observers' function was "to co-operate with and reinforce the structures of the peace accord. They work closely with the National Peace Secretariat and the regional and local peace structures. The observers monitor funerals and marches, attend -- and sometimes participate in -- the regional and local peace committee meetings, and hold regular discussions with the SAP. More recently, they have begun involving themselves increasingly with mediation on the ground. All of this is done with the intention of creating or reinforcing the structures of the peace accord."

"After six months of activity, it is clear that the level of political violence has not decreased significantly. However, the presence of observers has had a clear impact in four main areas:

Ø. It has contributed towards the more disciplined behaviour of the masses in big marches and rallies, helping to reduce incidents of violence.

Ø. It has helped promote more impartial action by the police in controlling the crowds at marches. It also helps create better co-operation between the police and the ANC security structures during these protests. The police have been encouraged to engage in dialogue with communities and have become more receptive to suggestions made to them, mainly by senior police officers from Europe. As a result, channels of communication with black communities have improved.

Ø. Observers have helped increase the involvement of sectors of the black community in the peace process. The constant presence of the international community in conflict areas and the dialogue with the local people have helped increase awareness of the peace process as essential for a stable transition.

Ø. The observers have been an important vehicle to convey information to political centres around the world about the problems facing South Africa. This inevitably leads to greater commitment from the international community and to concrete measures to find solutions to these problems"

[Jaoa da Silva, Sunday Times, 9.5.93]

The three international observer missions held co-ordination meetings regularly with the NPS, usually once a week. The observers used these opportunities to draw the attention of the NPS to matters of concern regarding specific LPCs or to raise broader policy issues. [Commonwealth Secretariat, Phase III, 1994, p. 27] However, COMSA noted quite clearly that the NPA was "an entirely South African solution, with the international community playing only a very limited, supportive role". Whilst it had been expected early on that there might be need for an international mediator, this did not prove to be the case. "At times, not having a third party referee might have delayed the process. But the significance of insisting on a domestic solution is that after centuries of separation, South Africans were forced to confront each other and each others' worst fears". [ibid., p. 11]

The head of UNOMSA, Angela King, said in a report in June 1993, that "regional and local peace committees were still not representative of the local population mix, political viewpoints or community groups". She added that "key areas of the peace accord were yet to be implemented, including the code of conduct for the SADF, establishment of self-protection units in communities, the appointment of the full complement of justices of the peace, and enforcing the ban on dangerous weapons." [Business Day, 4.6.93]

King also said "we have seen some positive development and commend those LPCs which are reaching out to involve non-signatories [of the Peace Accord] such as the PAC, the CP and Transkei in its structures". She also noted that some of the regional peace committees functioned erratically in the discharge of their broad mandate and were severely understaffed. Inadequacies at the regional and local levels sometimes led to a tendency to rely too heavily on the international observer missions' solo attendance at events. "Our role is to support and assist, not substitute or replace". [Star, 4.6.93]

The UN observers made further pleas for action to be taken regarding the display of lethal weapons in public demonstrations, saying that the GC recommendations had been ignored. "International observer missions see no justification for marchers and demonstrators to be armed. The sort of weapons displayed by right-wing elements in Kempton Park defied all definitions of free expression, and could have led to even more serious violence... The fact that law enforcement agencies appeared either unable or unwilling to contain the armed occupation of the World Trade Centre [where the political negotiations were taking place] was particularly disturbing." The observers urged that political groups accelerate their progress in reaching agreement on elections and transitional governance arrangements. [Citizen, 28.6.93]


"If the Peace Accord did not exist, it would have had to be invented. The Accord supplements and is an integral part of the process of a negotiated transition to democracy". [Finance Week, 1993]

Various commentators have noted the difficulties involved in assessing the actual contribution made to the peace process by the NPA and its structures.1 It is equally difficult to assess what would have happened had the NPA not been there. Further, it is impossible to quantify the extent to which the NPA brought about an overall change to the political culture, eg. increasing the levels of political tolerance. However, it is certainly possible to gain an understanding of some of the qualitative impacts of the Accord.

Impact was substantial. In April 1994, the National Peace Secretariat (NPS) reported that "11 regional and more than 200 local peace committees had become operational and that in most areas the committees worked well and made a substantial contribution towards peace". About 15,000 peace monitors had been trained across the country. Some peace committees had encountered difficulties, especially in politically tense areas of KwaZulu/Natal and the Witwatersrand. In those areas, "political parties reject, by word or deed, the political game rules". [SAIRR, Race Relations Survey, 1994/5, pp. 124-5]

Shaw notes that LPCs clearly had a positive impact with regard to monitoring political and other gatherings -- demonstrations, marches, funerals, etc. The combined effort of local peace monitors and international observers drastically reduced the violence which occurred around such events, with some notable exceptions such as the Bisho massacre which was due to extremely poor (and irresponsible) judgment on the part of ANC leaders. Shaw said that "conflict now seldom involves large groups of people or entire communities. Instead, perpetrators of violence have been forced underground. Hit and run attacks, isolated revenge killings and assassinations have now become common." [1993a, p. 9]

Violence in most areas of the country fell substantially once the peace structures began to take effect. "Our Peace Accord, in which warring parties committed themselves to non-violent ways of handling their differences, is the first in history to be signed during, rather than after, a conflict. Following a shaky start, the peace structures have engaged in a slow, stubborn attrition, pushing violence back, so that right now 90 percent of the killing in the Wits/Vaal region is in just two townships. The slaughter there is obscene, but why is it not more widespread? Could it be because more ordinary people are talking, training and practising non-violent conflict resolution in today's South Africa than anywhere in the world?" [Bishop Peter Storey, Star, 24.12.93]

At the end of 1993, the Star reported on the LPCs' achievements [24.12.93]:

"The Local Peace Committees, which constitute the cutting edge of the peace process, must be judged on their successes in the prevention of conflict since they have no policing powers -- and on this front, they have accomplished well. Their achievements include resolving taxi wars in Alexandra, the East Rand and western Cape, consumer boycotts in Pietersburg and Phalaborwa, 'squatter' conflicts on the East Rand, and Transvaal hospital strikes...

"A number of interlocking ANC/IFP/SAP agreements have been brokered on the Reef by the Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat and LPCs, and while conditions of these have not always been met, they have served to substantially reduce the culture of intolerance which existed before...

"There have also been a host of successful mediations. The education crisis in March, during which the Congress of SA Students held demonstrations and school boycotts, was finally resolved through the setting up of meetings between the education Ministers and all other parties concerned...

"The Wits/Vaal Peace Committee's police / community relations sub-committee, which has done excellent work this year, pioneered the lay visitors scheme whereby a panel of civilians have right of access to all police cells...

"Through the expansion and empowerment of the regional and local peace structures, especially on the Witwatersrand, the Peace Accord establishment has become far more decentralised, resulting in the desired incorporation of hundreds of ordinary people in its forums...

"A major drive of the peace process has been to clear the way for socio-economic reconstruction and development (SERD) in violence-torn communities. This will involve renovating hostels, establishing parks, providing electric utilities, and constructing roads. The SERD committee on the East Rand is likely to become very active in such projects next year, having consulted the communities and established their needs." [Star, 23.12.93]

"... The greatest hope for peace still lies in the thousands of grassroots meetings between members and supporters of rival political organisations which are held under the auspices of the Peace Accord. If the birth of the new South Africa is a little more peaceful than the last few bloody years, we will have largely a strengthened Peace Accord to thank." [Mail & Guardian, 18.6.93]

An example of a major breakthrough in a violence-torn community was the agreement by political groups in September 1993 not to use schools for political purposes and to open no-go zones in Thokoza. Thokoza Peace Committee chairman, Phiroshaw Camay, led several hours of tense discussion with the ANC, IFP, PAC and the Department of Education and Training. They finally agreed that "children in close proximity should have free access to schools, that all community members should have access to public transport systems without hindrance, and that teachers should not be intimidated... Parents agreed to monitor the situation at schools to ensure that violence would not break out from any source, including the internal stability unit. It was further agreed that the Thokoza Peace Committee would act as a conduit for any complaints against the police, specifically the Internal Stability Unit." [Business Day, 10.9.93]

In its annual report tabled in Parliament in August 1994, the NPS said that:

"There was no guarantee South Africa's post-election period of relative peace would last, particularly in view of the impending local government elections...One of the biggest challenges facing peace structures was the 'nonchalance' with which South Africans had accepted violence. Peace structures were shifting their focus to long-term goals of reconstruction, reconciliation and nation-building. However, they would maintain their monitoring and conflict resolution functions." [ibid.]

The issue of ongoing support for the NPA structures was raised in Parliamentary debates on 1 November 1994. It was noted that "owing to the recent national elections [April 1994], the NPS was forced to overspend on the budgeted amount, mainly due to unexpected and unforeseen expenses". [Minister of Home Affairs, Hansard, 1 November 1994, p. 330] In order to continue their operations, many peace committees required an immediate infusion of funds.

In motivating continued government support, Senator James Selfe noted two principal advantages to the NPA:

1.. "Considering the number of people involved, the structures are relatively cheap. Most of the people serve as volunteers, and in the process, we have drawn more than 7,000 people into 263 peace committees nationwide. These committees, in turn, can draw on the resources of 18,000 trained monitors throughout the length and breadth of the country."

2.. "The peace committees enjoy credibility because they are very broadly representative of all shades of opinion and all interest groups within the community, and because they operate on the basis of consensus. What has happened in some of those peace committee areas is nothing less than miraculous in the sense that deeply divided communities have been drawn together and have been able to restore peace in hitherto war-torn communities." [Hansard, 1 November 1994, p. 331]

Cessation of state funding for the NPA and its implications

Despite its recognised successes and relatively low cost, noted in strong arguments made by various stakeholders in support of continued state financial support, in November 1994 the democratically elected National Assembly decided not to renew funding for the National Peace Secretariat and its sub-structures. The enabling legislation for the NPA, the Peace Institutions Act, was also repealed. Whilst the continuing validity and relevance of the NPA itself was not questioned, it was argued that under the new democratic dispensation these problems could be dealt with by government structures and processes put in place to implement the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Few people spoke out against this decision or debated whether it was really in communities' best interest to dismantle existing and, in some cases, well-functioning structures and to replace them with something as yet unknown. Nor was this action seen in the context of the continuing lack of credible and legitimate local government authorities and the problems of resolving community conflict without them.

In addition to its inability to effectively co-ordinate national development programmes, the RDP Office failed to address the ongoing deep-seated community conflict created and embedded by apartheid society. In 1996, the South African government decided to dissolve the RDP Office completely. Its leadership and staff were redeployed to line ministries. Substantial funds which had been allocated to the RDP and which remained unspent were returned to the national exchequer at the end of 1996. Peace and development issues were relegated to line ministries that were ill-equipped to deal with them.

Further, after political liberation, uncontrollable crime in South African communities is a widely recognised phenomenon. The various government departments that should be dealing with this problem have been unable to respond with effective measures. In some areas, community policing forums have been created, based on the model of the former peace committees. These forums have been more successfully implemented in some provinces than others. Other peace units, rooted in the experience gained under the NPA, have emerged in KwaZulu/Natal. The system of Police Reporting Officers survived for a while. It has been replaced today by the Police Complaints Bureaus. In other areas, due to their perception that the legitimate authorities are unable to cope, communities have resorted to vigilantism to deal with criminals. This poses some serious questions regarding issues of the rule of law and the state's ability to govern effectively. Some feeling remains that retaining the NPA and its structures would have been more effective.


The National Peace Accord and its structures played a critical role in the relatively peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa. However, their implementation was certainly not without serious problems and constraints. Nor were they always successful in their attempts to bring about peace in communities and between opposing forces at all levels. We explore below some of the reasons behind these successes and failures.

It is essential to acknowledge here the many individuals from all walks of life who participated in and/or served as facilitators/mediators/chairs or staff in the peace committees and who volunteered as peace monitors, without whom all the political will would have been for naught. Many key individuals also served as consensus-builders within stakeholder groups. They gave their time and skills, and often risked their lives, to work for peace. They also created an important precedent in terms of the kind of voluntarism and commitment which is needed for South Africa's development.

The Accord aimed at a return to the rule of law and the reassertion of communities in their own governance. It established a series of principles through the codes of conduct as a basis for accountability and good governance of all the signatories. It brought a multiplicity of stakeholders to the negotiating table for the first time.

The SA Institute of Race Relations highlighted some of the NPA's strengths as:

Ø. "the Accord obliged political organisations which ratified it to refrain from violence for political ends;

Ø. ... it was a multi-party instrument;

Ø. it envisaged a system of monitoring and enforcement, in which grassroots organisations, as well as the Commission of Inquiry regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation... would play a major part;

Ø. it re-stated fundamental obligations of the SAP, emphasised the force's accountability to the community at large and imposed a new duty to mediate and negotiate prior to resorting to force to disperse illegal gatherings;

Ø. it enjoined political parties and organisations to ensure that their supporters did not bring weapons to marches, rallies and other gatherings; and

Ø. it placed a ban on private armies and required 'self-defence units' (established by the ANC and its allies) to transform themselves into 'self-protection' units operating in liaison with the SAP." [SAIRR, Survey 1991/2, p. 468]

A key constraint in many cases was that "the accord did not provide penalties for transgressors. Many political analysts believe this weakens the effectiveness of the accord's provisions." [da Silva, Sunday Times, 9.5.93] This problem was cited again and again, and the NPS set up committees to explore how it could be overcome through the imposition of penalties or sanctions. The tendency was to avoid the criminalisation of penalties. An emphasis was placed on "voluntary" signing of the Accord and on "honour" in terms of adhering to the codes of conduct. Though in principle, this approach has a lot of advantages, under the prevailing circumstances, it was probably insufficient. Further sanctions were never developed. This lesson was in mind when in 1994 the Electoral Code of Conduct was developed.

Communities and their leaders were often not well-informed about the Accord and its structures. Despite the extensive publicity campaigns, many communities remained on the margins of the peace processes. They were therefore suspicious of its agenda and mandate. Thus, it has been argued that the means used to communicate peace were not geared to reaching many of those communities, eg. because inappropriate languages and inappropriate media (television and newspapers) were used. People in poor, remote areas with high rates of illiteracy simply were not targetted. The message also was flawed: peace was marketed as a 'product' not a 'process', so whilst people wanted peace, they did not know where to begin. [Shaw, 1993a, p. 18]

For those who were reached by the campaigns, and who did want to become part of the peace processes, expectations were sometimes raised too high. The peace structures made a huge contribution in monitoring political events such as rallies, marches, funerals, etc. The training of monitors and political party marshals was a hugely effective effort. However, the difficulties of establishing local peace committees everywhere they might be needed were probably not understood at first, nor were they communicated to the public. The media did not do enough to explain the complexities of the process. So, in a sense, the peace structures were setting themselves up to be seen to fail despite the extent of their success.

Ball and Spies [1997], in consultation with participants in the peace processes, identified and assessed six key functions of the peace committees:

1.. opening channels of communication

2.. legitimising the concept of negotiations

3.. creating a safe space in which to engage in dialogue

4.. strengthening accountability

5.. equalising the balance of power

6.. reducing the incidence of violence

In terms of this present review of the peace processes, it would be reasonable to conclude that, in a qualitative sense, the peace committees succeeded to a considerable degree in each of these functions. It is fair to assume that, had the NPA and its structures not been in place, the levels of violence and the numbers of related deaths would have been much higher. Also, the political transition in general would have been much more violent without the role played by the peace structures and processes in creating more political tolerance and a willingness to resolve problems through dialogue and negotiation rather than violence.

Local peace committees

The local peace committees faced a number of particular hurdles, some of which were surmounted and others of which were not.

It was not always possible to bring all of the parties involved in a dispute to the negotiating table. In some cases, this was due to parties' refusal to participate in any NPA structure. Those organisations which were still operating outside the law, eg. involved in guerrilla attacks, obviously remained outside the peace processes. In other cases, parties could not identify appropriate representation or failed to agree on who should represent it. Factionalism within parties was a major problem.

Political party leaders at the local level, though themselves willing to participate in the peace process, were sometimes unable to control their followers. This situation was further exacerbated by the fact that local leaders were often the targets of violence from opposing parties or opposing groups within their own parties and many of them were killed before peace negotiations could progress. Violence generally resulted in a breakdown of the political organisations and therefore in lines of authority. [Shaw, 1993a, pp. 11-12]

Credible and skilled facilitators were not always readily available to mediate disputes. Or, those with credibility lacked the necessary skills or vice-versa. Some commentators felt that there were not enough blacks in key positions within the peace structures and this added to the credibility issue. Also, some of the peace negotiators who came from outside the communities were felt to be out of touch with the complexities on the ground.

Success sometimes required the involvement of stakeholders who were not directly involved in disputes but who played an indirect role in the situation of the community, eg. employers, local small businesses, and other interest groups. Whilst violence was primarily occurring in black communities, the participation of neighbouring white communities could assist in the emergence of wider peace and development initiatives beyond the immediate conflict resolution. It was also a means of promoting reconciliation and mutual understanding, and bridging huge gaps between black and white civil society.

The problems of shifting populations due to violence led to local peace committees' inability to help when people from communities where they were operating were forced to move elsewhere to escape the violence. Their sphere of action was restricted to their locality. Displaced people, often those most in need of help, were not represented on the committees. LPCs in neighbouring communities could have collaborated more actively to deal with such problems. Sometimes the local solutions could only be brought to bear at a higher level of authority, eg. political relationships at national level. [Shaw, 1993a, p. 10-11]

The LPCs had very limited success with regard to their reconstruction and development mandate. The limited funds available to the NPA Trust were insufficient even for short-term relief to the many communities which needed it. The relationship between poverty and violence made it extremely difficult to assess development priorities and manage resource allocation at the local level. The SERD structures were unable to meet the demands of this task due to lack of capacity and the lack of a conducive political environment and political will.

LPCs were established as volunteer structures, without full-time staff or a secretariat. When resources were required, they appealed to the NPS structures or made do with what was locally available or donated. This phase was the most important and probably the most effective.

When, as in the beginning of 1994, various offices were rented and staff hired for the LPCs, the additional tensions which were created around garnering resources, status, etc. became of paramount importance. The key objectives of the NPA were being set aside and careerist elements crept into the structures of the Accord. Nor did this additional bureaucracy bring with it better decisions or allocations of resources.

A case in point was the IFP march in the centre of Johannesburg prior to the April 1994 election. Whereas through low-level intercession the route of previous marches was agreed so as not to pass high security buildings or ANC headquarters, in this particular march the permission granted by the local magistrate did not include this essential qualification. The ensuing bloodbath, when the marchers passed outside Shell House, ANC headquarters, left several dead and many more injured. It was only due to the intervention of various experienced individuals in the peace committee and its representatives that tensions were reduced and peace restored.

Usually, a resourced organisation undertook to take minutes, distribute records, notices and agendas, and act as a liaison for the peace committees. Meetings were held only where business merited, and took place after working hours, often without refreshments. They lasted for a fixed period, and politicking as a rule was avoided. Once the UNOMSA mission was in place, observers also attended these meetings and reported to their own headquarters.

An analysis of various minutes of the Johannesburg and Thokoza Peace Committees showed that these LPC meeting agendas included:

Ø. consistent track of grievances

Ø. against the police and defence force

Ø. against rival political parties

Ø. consistent complaints of violations of the Accord

Ø. consistent post-event complaints

Ø. by police

Ø. by monitors

Ø. by political parties

Some matters were persistently followed up by the stakeholders at meetings. Others were not pursued after the initial flush of the complaint. It was also observed that when a complaint was against a party, the offending party would either send a low-level delegation or avoid attending the meeting until an acceptable explanation was formulated by that party. The facilitators / chairpersons therefore had onerous responsibilities to keep the process together, keep participants at the table, and yet challenge the violations of the Accord.

Overall partial success of the NPA

In three and a half short years, the NPA and its structures accomplished a great deal, though not everything it had set out to do. It succeeded in developing a stronger culture of political tolerance which helped enormously in ensuring peaceful elections in 1994 and again in 1999. It also succeeded in reducing the levels of violence in many areas from what they would have been without it. Over time, the political violence was largely restricted to particularly volatile areas such as the East Rand and Kwa Zulu/Natal. It built popular consensus for peace and involved large numbers of citizens and organisations in promoting that peace, increasing mutual understanding. It also educated large segments of the minority white population regarding the deprivation and insecurity faced by the black majority.

The NPA initiated important changes in the institutional cultures and behaviour of both the SAP and the SADF. It particularly assisted the SAP in moving towards democratic policing and community policing -- transforming it from a force to a service. International police officers, as part of the observer teams, also made a contribution to this process. It also enabled the important co-operation between the Independent Electoral Commission and the SADF during the April 1994 election process.

Some of these positive consequences were unintended spin-offs. This was particularly so in terms of the co-operation that occurred amongst stakeholders who previously had oppositional and even overtly hostile relationships with each other, especially the political parties and the security forces. Even within civil society, disparate groups began to work closely together on a common agenda, eg. human and legal rights groups, religious organisations of all denominations, and business associations representing different races, classes and political viewpoints.

The NPA failed in a number of areas, due both to the limitations of political will of the political parties and to its own weaknesses. It failed to implement gun control measures and to reduce the number of dangerous weapons which were readily accessible, thus allowing the post-1994 crime wave. It did not manage to resolve the taxi violence which continues to plague communities today. Nor was it able to bring about community development in terms of provision of basic needs, upgrading of hostels, etc. The Goldstone Commission also failed in some respects due to its inability to get reliable information from various sources in order to ascertain the truth about the causes of violence in specific circumstances. This became clear later through testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Further, the GC's lack of authority to implement its many recommendations was a serious weakness.

The NPA is also an illustration of how other strife-torn countries can deal with building peace and democracy.

In sum, in light of the extremely difficult circumstances in which it was drafted and agreed, and despite some notable weaknesses, the National Peace Accord was both a remarkable achievement and had a significant impact.


The following lessons for issues of civil society and governance can be drawn from the experience of the National Peace Accord and its structures:

Ø. Political will and commitment within both civil society and government are essential to the success of a social compact such as the NPA.

Ø. The NPA experience illustrated the importance of such initiatives being led by an authority viewed as legitimate by as many stakeholders as possible, and that such an authority must be backed up by substantial power to enforce.

Ø. When government, political parties and civil society commit to any such accord, they must ensure that their rhetoric is matched by their actions. It is not acceptable, for example, to have leaders espousing peace whilst members on the ground are committing acts of violence (on instruction from the leaders).

Ø. The value of participation and commitment by a wide spectrum of civil society organisations has been clearly illustrated in terms of building public support for the initiative and for monitoring the behaviour of other stakeholders.

Ø. The negotiation and implementation of the NPA showed that it is possible to break down historical barriers and to move from largely oppositional relationships to co-operative ones.

Ø. The monitoring efforts under the NPA succeeded in making government -- even one that was just emerging from authoritarian and oppressive behaviour --more responsive, transparent and accountable.

Ø. The reimposition of the rule of law can only be achieved when the authorities are perceived to be on the side of the communities and committed to the well-being of those communities.

Ø. The reduction of use and abuse of security force power to maintain the peace was possible through the use of well-trained and committed peace monitors who were able to be a buffer between political groupings and the security forces, and who were able to demonstrate to the security forces how negotiation and conflict resolution skills can be used to control opposing groups and limit violence without the use of counter-violence.

Ø. The provision of space for civil society to operate freely and autonomously was an essential part of the NPA negotiations and the political negotiations. Once the government had agreed to this, it was possible for those civil society organisations to play a constructive, non-partisan role in the peace process without fearing the wrath of government.

Ø. Some civil society strategies were more effective than others in terms of changing attitudes and behaviour patterns of individual citizens and interest groups of all kinds. In particular, where the CSOs were perceived to be themselves playing a constructive role in the peace processes, they were likely to have more credibility and legitimacy to convince others to participate.

Ø. Representation within structures such as the peace committees should be inclusive, appropriate and should have continuity. Sending junior officers or officials, or changing representatives regularly, proved to be a hindrance to effective decision-making and, more importantly, to implementation of those decisions and agreements.

Ø. The continuing role of militant elements in every quarter of every stakeholder bent on sowing discord and disharmony must be taken into account. Some groups will always prefer to remain outside of the mainstream of civil society in order to maintain their separate identity and/or to pursue their goals. However, where such groups try to undermine or infringe the rights of others, they must be subject to clear sanctions / penalties under the law.

Ø. Peace-builders and peace-keepers must have widespread legitimacy and credibility. Thus, they must make a firm commitment to non-partisanship and to obeying agreed norms and laws. Some of this legitimacy may be accorded to them as part of an organisation or agency, but it also requires a considerable degree of individual responsibility.

Ø. In signing such social compacts, it is preferable that the agreed aims, whether short or long term, are achievable. Where they are not, such as the reconstruction and development aims of the NPA, they will create expectations which are too high and can result in frustration and disillusionment of the parties to the compact.

Ø. Over time, if the implementing body of such a compact becomes too bureaucratised or institutionalised, too much time, effort and resources may be wasted on unconstructive and unproductive activities.

Ø. Grassroots support, and where possible, bottom-up initiatives are essential to the success of initiatives which require extensive citizen participation. Many communities felt that the NPA structures were being imposed from above and as a result, declined to participate. The peace campaigns also were not aimed sufficiently at the disadvantaged majority population who most needed to become part of the initiative.

Ø. The building of confidence and skills in communities so that they can speak with their own voices, rather than relying on outside facilitators or organisations, is also crucial to establishing good governance at the local level. To some extent the NPA did contribute to this, especially through the training of monitors and the involvement of local organisations.

Ø. The limitations of both civil society and government must be recognised in determining their respective terms of reference under such compacts. Their comparative advantages should be utilised and their weaknesses compensated for.


Democracy and good governance will be fully entrenched in South Africa only once peace prevails. Such peace requires that, first, the political leadership endorse and are seen to be supporting the basic freedoms, and second, that followers of those leaders accept a role in entrenching those freedoms. It is also necessary to develop practical and implementable guidelines for peacekeeping structures and processes, emphasising the needs of communities divided by violence, crime and conflict to themselves monitor the peacekeeping processes through civil society organisations. Efforts at peacebuilding must continue unabated, through democracy education and building of political tolerance.

The lessons from the National Peace Accord in South Africa may also be useful to efforts in other countries to increase the effectiveness of conflict resolution and peace monitoring. The positive impact of outside intervention has been relatively modest, and the main hope seems to lie with the affected communities themselves.


Ball, Nicole (with assistance of Chris Spies), 1997, "Managing Conflict: Lessons from the South African Peace Committees", for USAID/CDIE/POA, Washington, D.C., Overseas Development Council, 22 November.

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Commonwealth Secretariat, 1993, Violence in South Africa: Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa, Phase II, February - May 1993, London.

Commonwealth Secretariat, 1994, South Africa in Transition: The Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa, Phase III, August - December 1993, London.

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Rothwell, Helen, 1993, "Youth for democracy", in Accent on Peace, SACS, December.

Shaw, Mark, 1993a, "Crying peace where there is none? The functioning and future of local peace committees of the National Peace Accord", Johannesburg, Centre for Policy Studies, CPS Transition Series, Research Report No. 31, August.

Shaw, Mark, et al., 1993b, "Local Peace Committees in the Wits/Vaal Region", Johannesburg, Centre for Policy Studies and Wits/Vaal Peace Secretariat, August.

Shaw, Mark, and Sello Monyatsi, 1993, "Recommending Peace: Summary of the Reports and Initial Follow-up of the Recommendations of the Goldstone Commission", Institute for the Study of Public Violence, Recommendation Follow-up Series, No. 1, November.

Sommer, Henrik, 1996, "From apartheid to democracy: Patterns of violent and nonviolent direct action in South Africa, 1984-1994", Africa Today, No. 43, pp. 53-76.

South African Institute of Race Relations, Race Relations Survey, various years.

van Hoven, Lynette, (ed.), 1993, Accent on Peace, Pretoria, South African Communication Service. van Wuk, Elfriede, 1993, "Bending the rules for peace", Accent on Peace, Pretoria, South African Communication Service, December, pp. 82-85.

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