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Legacies of South Africa’s Apartheid Wars  

Gary Baines

South Africa’s Apartheid Wars had a profound effect on shaping the postcolonial landscape of the region, as well as the country itself. This much is evident from the difficulties encountered by the liberation movements in making the transition to government. The armed struggle and the experience of exile left a deep imprint on these movements and shaped them as political organizations. They have not been able to divest themselves of internal hierarchical structures, as well as intolerant and authoritarian tendencies. On the other hand, the counterrevolutionary war waged by the apartheid state’s security nexus delayed decolonization and shaped the political culture considerably. The militarization of South African society undermined civil-military relations, contributed to a legacy of corruption in the defense sector, and proved detrimental to the practices of governance. The integration of the armed formations of the state and the liberation movements into new national armies were fraught processes. Reconciliation became the byword in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa, but only the latter established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as an exercise in nation-building. However, cohesion and consensus remain elusive as the fault lines of colonial and apartheid society are still very much in evidence. Moreover, the governments of the region harbor resentment about South Africa’s dominance of the region and remain suspicious of its intentions. Therefore, relations between these states, and groups within them, are still prickly. The conflicts might be over but the countries of the region are still having to deal with contestations over their remembrance and commemoration.

Article

Violence in the South African Transition  

Laura Evans

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