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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Natal - Violence: An Assessment of Forces


The weaknesses in the strategy on the Natal violence, as currently outlined by the JWC of COSATU, the UDF and ANC, are at least partly attributable to the lack of information/intelligence informing the development of a strategy. This is not surprising, given that much of the activities of the government, Inkatha and other forces involved in the violence, to whom elements of the strategy have been directed up to now, have been shrouded in secrecy.


In terms of the strategy of the JWC, a major limitation is the manner in which information/intelligence has been utilized - ie in terms of its propaganda value. Thus, the central thrust of the strategy has been to expose Buthelezi and the government as operating in tandem to perpetuate the violence. Not only is the strategic approach being developed on the basis of a lack of information/intelligence, it is also preceding on the basis of a number of simplistic assumptions which cloud the reality of the violence in Natal. The pressure is on for the democratic movement to advance a strategy that arrests the violence in Natal, which shows no sign of abating.

An underlying assumption of the strategy is that Inkatha is synonymous with violence. This is reflected in the view that Inkatha, devoid of any mass popular support, is in reality, merely the political base of Buthelezi and his warlords. It is assumed that the organisation has been totally corrupted by reactionary elements, and is beyond any possibility of coexistence with the rest of the democratic movement. It also obscures the fact that Inkatha and GB have been major political players on the SA political scene, having the backing of capital and the major imperialist forces, since their interests coincide, even though this support is clearly wavering.

This document attempts to make an assessment of the major forces at play in the Natal situation. It outlines the significant factors that should be taken into account when charting the way forward.

There is no doubt that the demands currently being put forward by the ANC, etc, are politically correct. The question that arises however, is whether the movement has the capacity to ensure that the demands are taken seriously and met by de Klerk. This will happen only if it is in the interest of the government and GB to meet the demands, as it is clear that the relationship between the government and GB is firmly entrenched - de Klerk will do nothing to compromise GB's place at the negotiating table.

Here a correct understanding of the National Party's current strategy is needed. Some commentators have argued that they are moving towards an alliance with the ANC, as it is the major opposition force. Whilst this is a distinct possibility, it should not be forgotten that the Nats are at the same time trying to establish a scenario in which the relative strength of the ANC is reduced, and that other players are afforded a piece of the political pie.


What is our reading of the situation? The formulation of the JWC demands has the benefit of focusing attention squarely on the government as being at least partly responsible for the violence. This does not do anything for the reformist, democratising image that de Klerk is trying to project. Moreover, the violence does not create the conditions necessary for implementing appropriate schemes of socio-economic development, so necessary for ensuring political stability. It is against this objective of the state that the plans of Delport in Natal - injection of millions for socio-economic development - must be seen. Viewed in these terms, the Natal war is politically and economically costly to de Klerk.

But another dimension of the violence in Natal needs to be taken into account - ie that in addition to the violence of Inkatha, there are other manifestations. In those areas where the state has failed to secure a base for Inkatha, other forms of state-sponsored violence take root - the internecine conflicts within organisations, criminality, gangsterism, conflict with rival political organisations - all of which suggest that the state is using a strategy of low-intensity conflict to create political instability - thus there is no guarantee that even if the violence of Inkatha was to be stopped, other forms of violence would not continue. Even if a settlement is reached between Inkatha and the UDF, it would be in the interests of the state to exacerbate conditions through other forms of violence with the objective of ensuring that the conditions in the region were such that none of the parties was able to generate overwhelming support.


It appears that Inkatha too may be reassessing its long term strategies for survival. In the context of a negotiations scenario Inkatha is experiencing a need to demonstrate that it has a constituency of genuine supporters. It has taken the decision to transform itself from a cultural liberation movement, to a political party. Thus it also needs to be able to project a presentable image of itself, and become reliant, not on violence, but on political processes to win support. The intended injection of resources into the KwaZulu region would also work in the interests of Inkatha, as this would create a state of socio-economic well-being.

That it is now being targeted as responsible for the violence as part of a national and international campaign does not help Inkatha in following this path. It is for this reason that GB has decided to reopen the peace talks - this will project him as a reliable, reasonable political actor. The question that the movement needs to ask is whether there is any strategic advantage to meeting GB now ( it could be readily argued that the movement has very little choice but to meet with GB) and what it should aim to get out of these talks. Is it conceivable that there can be consensus with GB that the demands of the JWC can form the basis for ending the violence. Frank Chikane, following his meeting with GB, was saying that GB did not disagree that the security issues need to be addressed, if the violence is to be stemmed. There are other indications that Inkatha may be prepared to come to some agreement about the violence:

-. in recent week GB has approached the JWC to reopen the peace talks. The five-a side Inkatha delegation met Alec Erwin and Willies Mchunu and submitted a document from GB entitled "The need to launch a peace initiative that will work in KwaZulu/Natal" (4.4.90)

-. the Sunday Tribune (1/7/90) editorial argued that it was the responsibility of the government to deal with the violence, by arresting the warlords, disarming the warring parties and by ensuring one single policing authority. This is a significant deviation from the past where the blame for the violence has been squarely laid at the door of the UDF, COSATU and Inkatha.

But the formulation of a strategy requires a far more in-depth understanding of Inkatha. Here it must be said that we lack the capacity to answer all the questions but the following are significant features of Inkatha's political character:


GB's speech to the Amakhosi in March 1990 was followed by the Seven Days War in the Edendale valley. Since then the violence has escalated in various parts of Natal, particularly the rural areas. A pattern has been the meetings called by the chiefs at which instructions have been issued to "kill the comrades". Features of these attacks have been the massing of armed vigilantes, and the collusion and /or participation of the ZP and the SAP. GB sees the ANC as a political adversary and is using his armed might to attempt to crush it.


Inkatha is not necessarily a homogeneous force.

There are suggestions of internal dissent and discontent within Inkatha about the violence. DM and AE have reported on what was projected as a sense of frustration and alienation on the part of Dhlomo and Mdlalose, who claimed, not in as many words, that they have been constantly undermined by GB, who rules Inkatha like a despot. This may have resulted in Dhlomo's resignation from Inkatha, although he has been at pains to deny that there is a split between GB and himself.


Inkatha's national political agenda coincides closely with that of the Nats. In fact, it appears that GB, or the political Think Tank of Inkatha, influences the national political agenda very closely. Some supporting evidence of this:

- In June 1989, Inkatha placed a press advertisement in which it outlined its stand on negotiations. The advertisement identified a number of obstacles to negotiations, as perceived by Inkatha. What is significant is how the government has responded to Inkatha's position to date.

In this regard Inkatha has called for:

*. the immediate and unconditional release of NM and other Rivonia trialists, the release of those political prisoners who have served 15 years or more of their sentences, and that others should qualify for remission;

*. an amnesty allowing for the return of exiles so that they could participate in the process of negotiations

*. the unbanning of political organisations

*. the lifting of the emergency.

Under F. W. de Klerk the government has gone far in meeting these demands, even though it may be conceded that they do tally with the movement's Harare declaration demands, roughly.

In addition Inkatha has stated that the following apartheid legislation should be repealed before the process of negotiations could begin:

*. Group Areas Act

*. Population registration act

*. Separate Amenities Act

The government has announced its intention to repeal these laws in the next year.

Another obstacle identified has been the inability of the government to allow other groups to form themselves voluntarily, and their insistence that only race based groups should be constitutionally allowed. The government has moved away from this principle, even saying that the National Party would throw open their doors to other races.

On the existence of the tricameral parliament the government has declared that it will scrap it and is prepared to negotiate a constitutional dispensation acceptable to all groups. On the Bantustan ystem the government has acknowledged that this system is untenable, and that those TBVC Bantustans that so desire, should be reincorporated into SA.

Like the government, Inkatha has differed with the ANC in the process of negotiations, particularly on the question of a constituent assembly. Both say they do see a scenario where all existing parties will be allowed to come to the negotiating table, at which decisions on a constitutional dispensation would be taken based on consensus.

In an interview, Dhlomo has made a distinction between an alliance with the government, which is not possible, and one with the Nats, which he does not rule out as a possibility.


Inkatha has decided to present itself as a sophisticated political party, and to shed its mantle of a cultural liberation movement in order to participate in the process of negotiations. This presents interesting possibilities - if it wishes to attract political support, or at least be able to enter into valuable alliances, it may have to decide to abandon its repressive character. The

forthcoming Inkatha conference will be crucial in reflecting on its position.


An interview conducted with Rowley Arenstein provides further insight into the kind of constitutional model favoured by Inkatha's Think Tank, and which is likely to be aired at the Inkatha conference. Arenstein is proposing a model,of power sharing in which there will be two legislative /executive bodies:

" Like the Soviet Union - the one house will be based on majority rule, the other house will have equal representation for the different national groups..." ( See interview with Rowley Arenstein 23-05-90)

Herein lies the most telling clues of the close relationship with the Nats. In recent weeks the government has advanced a 2-house thesis which mirrors Arenstein's views very closely.

An excerpt from the same interview:


RES: No, but I am preparing a memorandum on the subject.


Well, for everybody. First of all to see whether Inkatha will agree with it. If Inkatha agrees with it, then we see if Inkatha shouldn't present it. They can present it to de Klerk?


Well it will take me - you know I need time. My biggest difficulty in the world is time.


That's right - power sharing and the two houses. And it quotes Lenin extensively, especially for Slovo.


No, no. At the most it will be two months. The most. It's got to be ready for the Inkatha conference in July. That's the maximum period"

The press report on the Nats vision of a two house model can be seen in the Sunday Tribune of 1/7/90.


Any strategy on the violence, and in relation with Inkatha will have to take into account, the following factors: people;s perceptions of:

-. the king

-. GB

-. KZP

-. KZG

-. the ethnic factor

-. rural;/urban conditions

-. political consciousness

-. subjective organisational/leadership dynamics


At Groote Schuur the ANC presented the Natal violence as an obstacle to negotiations.  It was agreed to discuss this in greater detail in future meeting of the joint working group of the state and the ANC. At subsequent meetings the demands of the JWC were tabled. The discussions have however focused only on the demand for impartial policing.

It was decided a monitoring/liaison system be set up - it would consist of specified persons on the part of both the police and the police who would be responsible for communicating to each other any acts of violence identified. It would be the responsibility of the party to take appropriate action. This proposal can be seen as extension of the hotline idea which is operational between cde Mandela and Vlok. The viability of this proposal has been questioned by the JWC; moreover many unanswered questions remain about how effective the proposal will be in curbing the violence, particularly in a context where the actions of the police are apparently coordinated at the highest level. The ANC delegates have raised the other demands with the Government who have expressed difficulty with them. In this context it becomes necessary to make an appraisal of the JWC demands and to assess whether or not there are conditions under which the state would be prepared to meet the demand, and if so, what those conditions are.

Meanwhile, the government has announced its own plans to deal with the situation in Natal.  It has decided to retain the State of Emergency in Natal and to deploy an even greater number of police into the area.

What then will it take to force the Government to respond more positively to the demands made by the people than it is currently doing?

Disband the ZP

The ZP are the main instrument of control of Gatsha Buthelezi.  De Klerk will not simply accede to this demand even if a mass call is made. The ANC and the JWC may need to adopt a strategy where it becomes politically costly for the ZP to function.  How does one realise this? Vast resources have been injected into making the ZP a powerful, and terrible force. But we need to take into account the fact that the ZP was built up under very different political conditions - where the securocrats were the predominant political force. Today, the conduct of the ZP may be in contradiction to the principles of political conduct de Klerk is trying to establish. It might be necessary to generate a Nofomela and Coetzee type of crisis.  Here there is sufficient evidence of hit squad activity yet there are no definite admissions.  This is needed in order to demand the disbanding of the ZP.  Mass desertions, strikes etc. sight be some of the forms of action which are necessary but is this possible? On the other hand, it may be necessary for the JWC to allow the issue of the ZP to be dealt with in such a way that GB is not seen to be losing face - which will in any case cause him to dig in his heels.

Disarm warlords

In this respect too, a concerted effort is needed to bring this about. It is conceivable that the presentation of evidence will make it impossible for the state to avoid arresting and prosecuting the warlords - to the extent to which this is possible given the multi-faceted nature of the violence. The argument that would most probably advanced from the state and Inkatha is that all parties should be disarmed. The impact of the realisation of this demand will obviously not be as great as one year ago, when it was necessary to simply remove a few actors from the scene to stop the violence. The reality is that the warlords, in large numbers, are now in uniform - the uniform of the ZP.

Impartial Policing

The question that arises is whether it is possible or not to get the police to act in an impartial way. If one extends the argument that de Klerk would like to clean up his act, then they should - what is not clear is the extent to which the SAP are controllable, and whether there is not an independent dynamic in their relationship with GB. Reference has already bee made to the inadequate formulation of a monitoring system between the police and the movement.

It must be asked whether it can be reasonably be expected of the SAP to provide impartial policing, while they are behind other forms of low-intensity warfare.

End emergency

How is this to be achieved? The state's argument is that there is too much violence and that the current situation made it impossible for the SOE to be lifted.  Pressure must be brought to bear on the Govt. to lift the SOE. It is possible that this will happen as a further indication that it is serious about reform and negotiation, so it is likely that it is a demand that will be met.

Establishment of a judicial Commission of Inquiry into police conduct.  The JWC does not in any case intend to pursue this demand It will be dropped by the time of the intended peace conference. For its propaganda value an independent commission will be mooted at the peace conference. The non-cooperation of the police promises to make this demand a non-starter.

A guarantee of free political activity

This demand was included more for its moral weight than any other reason. How de Klerk is supposed to guarantee free political activity has never been specified by the JWC. In reality, if all the other demands are met, free political activity can take place.

All the demands are being made in the context of the developing discontentment against the Kwazulu and other Bantustans.  Is it at this point possible to embark on an anti-Bantustan campaign?  There has been talk for a long time yet there have been no changes in Natal.  This is possibly as a result of our subjective crisis? At the same time there is also an objective crisis i.e. the devastation caused by the violence in Natal. Before we embark on such a campaign we must ask whether such a campaign might fuel the violence and lead to even greater repression and more deaths.


The realities of attempting to build the ANC are quite instructive already.  Already in some cases there indications that there will have to be a measure of clandestinity in building the ANC.  Moreover the laying down of arms so much needed in the Natal context is an impossibility at this point.

When we assess our capacity to make the JWC demands happen, we are in fact asking whether F.W. de Klerk in terms of his own strategy of advancing towards a political settlement can afford the continuation of the Natal violence? Does it serve his interests?

It is a fact that the violence has not abated since de Klerk's ascension to power, but increased. Vlok and GB have maintained a close relationship.  In discussions with the ANC Working Group, Vlok has indicated that these bonds will not be easily broken.


The realisation of the demand of the JWC - security issues as they are characterized  by the JWC - begs the question of what the role of the SA Police in the context of de Klerk's agenda, is. We are aware of the contradictions between the military and the reformers in the government. Relations between the two have been harmed by the Harms Commission, at the time when FW de Klerk can little afford internal dissent and a lack of cohesion.

What is not known to us is whether a similar situation exists in relation to the police. Traditionally conservative, it is likely there is resistance at the highest levels to de Klerk changes, and the relation between the SAP and the ZP may have a dynamic of its own.


In addressing the violence and formulating an appropriate strategy towards Inkatha, much will depend on the strength that the ANC is able to demonstrate. It is significant that shortly after Viljoen indicated at a recent political correspondents' press briefing in Cape Town, that the government believes the ANC to be weak, and conflict-ridden, that FW has been becoming decidedly tougher in his approach to the ANC. In the mean time the various apparatuses of the Govt. which are responsible for destabilising the progressive forces, are at play.

Clearly Inkatha has reached an impasse.  Violence no longer presents itself as a viable solution to winning political support. Yet to GB, violence is the only way to secure a personal political niche. The resignation of Dhlomo followed a three day summit of the Inkatha Think tank. Inkatha is thinking of its long term survival and for that reason has decided to present itself as a sophisticated political party.

The Government knows that as long as its programme of destabilising continues, the democratic movement in Natal is not going to have the subjective capacity to deal a subjective blow to Inkatha. This is the relation between the difference forms of violence in Natal. However, the violence has to be ended if de Klerk's agenda is to proceed smoothly. The ANC is also in a very difficult position - if the violence continues then it is not going to be able to build a strong base in the region. Tactical flexibility is needed as never before on the side of the ANC. There is also an urgent need to reconcile the two contrasting positions within the ANC - those who argue that Inkatha must be fought to the death, and those who see the need for a political settlement.

Will the violence ever end?  It has become so involved and complicated, that even if the demands were met, it would not end immediately. The ANC needs to sharpen its strategy if it is to answer the following pressing questions:





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