Independent Projects Trust
Behind the Peace Process
RICHARD GRIGGS HEAD OF RESEARCH INDEPENDENT PROJECTS TRUST
The term peace process is commonly used to describe negotiations leading to the settlement of a violent and often long-standing conflict. But the peace process between members of the African National Congress [ANC] and the Inkatha Freedom Party [IFP] in KwaZulu-Natal has failed to produce 'peace' or eliminate the political geography of party strongholds that characterises the province.
Presently the levels of violence are contained below the 1993 average of 167 lives per month (Louw 1997). Violence declined after the 1994 elections but appear to be climbing again as we move toward state-wide elections in 1999. Presently it hovers in a range of 20 to 40 per month (Seccombe 1997).
The relationship between violence, electioneering, and geography helps to better explain the 'peace process' than a simple analysis of ongoing negotiations. The fire behind the smoke is this: if the ANC is to move from being the second most powerful organisation in the province to the first it must expand its power base beyond both the urban areas surrounding Durban and Pietermaritzburg and the Eastern Cape border zone. In turn, The IFP must geostrategise to stop this expansion and reclaim some of these areas. These geostrategies subvert the peace process and have brutal side effects: hit squads, killings, trauma, homelessness, internal refugees, orphans, widows, and stalled development.
Geopolitical designs and the geostrategies to achieve them produce a unique geography of violence: no-go areas, contested geostrategic zones, and violent hotspots (Figure One) that cannot be quickly erased in the aftermath of talks. 'No go' areas refer to landscapes of fear where opposition party members cannot campaign freely because people are oppressed for their political affiliations. They are not always violent but hotbeds of political activity from which acts of violence can be planned and coordinated. Geostrategic zones are areas in which political party allegiance can sharply affect the outcome of elections and therefore become targets of activity. Violent hotspots are particular places where conflicts repeatedly manifest.
One example of a violent hotspot in a geostrategic zone is the Inchanga/Fredville area along the corridor between Pietermaritzberg and Durban where former ANC supporters switched allegiance to the IFP. This resulted in a mini-war with over 30 casualties since last December and the creation a new 'no-go' area, Tintown, made up of IFP refugees from Fredville.
Thus, the political geography of geostrategic zones, hot spots, and no-go areas is mainly a product of political parties which have prioritised territorial gain over the political self-determination of local communities. It is a geopolitical game in which parties try to stamp one region after another until the 'winner' can design, administer and control the entire province of KwaZulu-Natal! Unfortunately such control is at the expense of building political cultures based on distinct geographic areas that have distinct needs and distinct voices. Public forums and grassroots democracy are shoved aside by closed-door geostrategic planning.
In the following sections we will examine the geostrategic objectives, power bases, and tactics of each political party to illustrate how party geopolitics distorts democracy and possible ways around this obstacle so we can reach toward a lasting peace.
The geostrategic objectives of the two principal players are transparent: the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) seeks a recognized power base in the only province that it won in the April 1994 elections while the African National Congress (ANC) wants its party to have majority control in the same region.
From the IFP's own documentation (1991, 1995a, 1995b) and in the writings of its representatives (Smith,1995) it is evident that this party seeks a wide range of autonomous powers for the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This includes obtaining recognition for a 'Kingdom of KwaZulu' and autonomous powers commensurate with that enjoyed by regions in a federal state such as in Germany or America.
From the ANC's own documentation and in the words of its representatives we can see that the opposite objectives are being sought: maximize power at the central level of government, minimize provincial powers, and expand ANC political control within the two maverick provinces that it lost during the 1994 elections. It also seeks to stop what is perceived as the development of ethnic-based territorial powers (African National Congress 1991, 1992, 1995).
The power base of each party refers to the resources, both material and non-material that each can draw upon to develop their spatial plans. Popular support, institutional capacity, credibility, and territorial control are the structural foundations of a party's power. They also tend to be the elements that are attacked and undermined by the opposition.
At the central state level, the ANC has the overwhelming majority of state power including 248 out of 400 seats in the National Assembly, 25 out of 28 members of Cabinet and strong control in seven out of nine provinces (Independent Electoral Commission 1994a, 1994b, 1994c). Such power can easily be utilised to obstruct IFP strategies to achieve more territorial autonomy for an IFP-led KwaZulu-Natal.
As an example, the 1995 ANC geostrategy to replace the Senate with a smaller, less powerful Council of Provinces (ANC 1995; Republic of South Africa 1996) now allow ANC majorities to easily overrule any IFP engineered alliance of minority parties on any legislative matter. In fact the entire body that was once the Senate can now be overruled by the National Assembly (Republic of South Africa 1996). This is reinforced by a "party boss clause" whereby party leaders can expel members who do not vote as instructed. Thus, in this vertical alignment of power, a maverick IFP province has little institutional capacity for challenging ANC rule at the state level.
For the IFP, achieving any significant power at the central government level depends on the relationship between state and provincial powers. In a federal system, its capacity would be significant. Kotzé's (1995) annual surveys have shown that while nearly 75% of ANC members favour strong central government, 93.3% of the IFP membership support a strong federation.
Under the present political structure, the IFP's power base rests on its 41-seat majority in the provincial legislature and the geopolitical relationship between tribal chiefs, rural territory and IFP membership. The IFP exercises decisive influence with regard to provincial competencies (e.g., housing, transport, schools) and some 300 of the 350 traditional leaders that control most of the rural countryside are IFP-aligned. Further, the head of the IFP also heads the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders.
The relative power bases of each party produces a geopolitical situation in which Inkatha commands the villages and countryside while the ANC controls the cities and urban areas . The ANC enjoys up to a two-thirds majority on the city councils [Pietermaritzburg] but up to 75% of all seven rural regional councils are IFP. The amakhosi or tribal chiefs who are mainly IFP hold about 30% of those seats.
This geopolitical situation is explosive. The IFP has the capacity to restrict ANC campaigning and influence within 75% of the area of KwaZulu-Natal where half of the province's five million voters are located. The ANC can employ its power base along the Durban to Pietermaritzburg corridor to encourage an expansion of ANC influence. Located here are 45% of the voters, 55% of the province's total economic output, and most of the province's professional class.
To achieve their territorial objectives members at various scales of the ANC and IFP organizations, have engaged in tactics ranging from negotiations to armed attacks. Few if any of these tactics have been conducive to building peace and often it is only the horror of the carnage, such as the 19 people massacred at Shobashobane on Christmas Day 1995, that compels the political parties into re-negotiating structures for peace (Sole 1996:19).
Let's consider six tactics in the following order: (1) negotiation and mediation; (2) discrediting the opposition; (3) mobilising tribal and ethnic affiliations; (4) exploiting party capacity for delivering development; (5) threats of physical or economic violence; and (6) violence.
1. Negotiation and Mediation
In a peace process one can select between direct negotiations where the affected parties bargain for what they want or mediation which involves a disinterested peacemaker. Mediation has fundamentally failed as a device in the conflict between the IFP and ANC and this is intricately tied to the weakness of the negotiation process. Therefore we must discuss both in historical context.
In the most fundamental sense, South Africa's Peace Process began with the Interim Constitution that was drafted through the 1992-1993 political party negotiations at the World Trade Centre, Kempton Park. The chief role-players were the ANC and NP. The IFP was often sidelined based on erroneous perceptions and opinion polls suggesting that IFP support was limited to one or two percent of the electorate (Mattes 1994:13).
This was the first of several fundamental mistakes in conflict resolution and contributes to an explanation of the IFP's general condemnation of the negotiating process, its near boycott of national elections, its walk-out from the Constitutional Assembly, its refusal to participate in the Truth Commission and other arrangements structured by the new constitution.
The Inkatha Freedom Party called off its threatened boycott of the April 1994 elections in exchange for an agreement signed by F.W. de Klerk, Nelson Mandela, Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Professor W.A.J. Okumu (witness) that committed the parties to engage in internationally-mediated negotiations over the spatial status of KwaZulu-Natal (Republic of South Africa 1994). The IFP was seeking a recognised Zulu Kingdom and the ANC were rejecting this as a latent form of apartheid.
Mediation by an internationally disinterested party was to take place "as soon as possible" after the April 1994 elections (Republic of South Africa 1994). This was a late (five days before the elections) but certain victory for the peace process. An IFP boycott would have left the province without legitimate representation and threatened an escalation of violence that could have resulted in full-scale civil war (Hamilton and Maré 1994).
Inkatha's participation in the elections was achieved through a bargaining tactic. It sought an equal seat at internationally-mediated negotiations in return for participating in the elections. Thus, it levelled the playing field of negotiations. The IFP strategised that it could achieve more through mediation than through participation in an ANC-dominated Government. However, once the elections were over, the ANC stalled the peace process over the terms of mediation and finally the president rejected the negotiated terms altogether (Smith 1995).
The ANC tactic not to honour its promise of international mediation was aimed at halting any possibility of increasing the IFP power base. However, its effect was to restructure the peace process in very negative ways. This not only delayed building cooperative structures that would have saved lives but IFP traditional leaders set up or reinforced 'no go' areas across KwaZulu-Natal. As ANC geostrategy, its result is also questionable. The ANC lost much credibility through representations in both the local and international media as breaking a signed agreement (Owen 1995:16; Financial Mail 1995; Qwelane 1996).
On April 8, 1995, nearly a year after the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation had been signed, the IFP resolved to boycott the Constitutional Assembly and the Intergovernmental Forum (set up to facilitate cooperation between provinces and central government) until the issue of international mediation was resolved (Inkatha Freedom Party 1995b). It has never been resolved and mediation remains untried. Out of necessity, the IFP has shifted its negotiation tactic back to closed-door political party bargaining.
In the three years since the mediation backtracking, negotiations have been slow and relatively ineffectual. In May 1996 the ANC agreed to recognise that Inkatha was part of the liberation movement and a code of party conduct that basically bans violence and the threat of violence was achieved. According to the code, those that practice this are punished or expelled by their own parties. Philosophically, these are laudable achievements but they have not broken down 'no go' areas and the code has yet to be fully implemented.
In early June the ANC (1997) released the contents of its peace package after nearly a year of negotiations behind closed doors between the two political parties. The lack of transparency allows for political deals to be cut that might otherwise be controversial or shattered by public perceptions of greed for political power. It also permits both parties to build their geostrategies for the 1999 elections. The IFP hopes to use dialogue to consolidate their hold on the province while the ANC wants the inroads in to IFP areas that might permit it to win the province. Both these aspects of the peace process do pander to power and exclude the ordinary person at the grassroots level who bears the brunt of the violence.
Promising aspects of the ongoing peace process are efforts to eliminate 'no go' areas by joint visits to these strongholds and an effort to end the competition for claiming delivery of development. Less promising are all the political deals: offers of political posts (agreeing to accommodate the IFP leader to a prominent national post), trade-offs on allocation of funds (e.g., Inkatha may get its controversial parliament buildings in Ulundi), and amnesty. One must wait to see if these positions are ever mandated by people on the ground. Otherwise, there is no reason to suppose that these measures will quickly translate into a new political geography. Barriers to free political activity can take a variety of forms and therefore on-the-ground commitment to the peace process is vital.
2. Discrediting the opposition
Discrediting the opposition is a powerful tool of geostrategy. A political party that loses credibility or legitimacy in the eyes of its supporters will see an erosion of its power base. It can also create the leverage needed to win concessions (Machiavelli 1954:43).
ANC members can pursue two tactics. One is linking the cause of violence to the IFP. The Financial Mail alleged that this was the principle purpose of the now-disbanded Investigative Task Unit formed in 1995 by Safety and Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi (Financial Mail 1995). Whether or not that is the case, the ANC does have sufficient ministerial powers to direct such commissions toward the selective discrediting of the IFP leadership.
A more subtle and insidious technique is to equate party identity with patriotism or ethnicity. Both parties try to define 'us' (VS 'them') in ways that build a power base and discredit the opposition.
For many ANC members, especially at the level of local party structures, there is only one 'us' and those working to reinforce ethnicity are 'thems' engaging in racist-apartheid politics antithetical to 'nation-building'. When the logic of "us = South African" is negatively reversed-- to not be 'us' is to not be South African--one can see that both parties are constructing a polarization of identities. The conflation with apartheid serves a geostrategy of constructing 'us' as a homogenized South African identity in which ethnicity and race will eventually 'evaporate' (Carrim, 1995). ANC Member of Parliament Philip Dexter (1995) once stated that the IFP's "failure to commit to the nation is going to mean that they are going to have to answer to their children, and the charge they will have to answer to is treason."
ANC efforts to construct a single 'us' for all South Africans comes into direct confrontation with IFP claims to a geographically distinct political culture within KwaZulu-Natal. It is also seen as a threat to the long-term survival of traditional societies, a pivot upon which IFP political power is derived.
On their part, the IFP have used language, icons, symbols, imagery, festivities and other techniques to represent the IFP as synonymous with the Zulu Nation (Hamilton 1990; de Haas and Zulu 1994). They have even gone so far as to link the IFP to an international struggle being waged by indigenous peoples in support of the right to self-determination in the face of state oppression.
The corresponding 'other' to each IFP 'us' is often represented as the "Xhosa-dominated" ANC party (The Argus 1995:5). This is because confusing IFP membership with Zulu ethnicity leaves the Zulu ANC members alienated as conspirators with the ethnic enemy. This polarizes identities and creates the conditions for violence.
Neither discourse is conducive to building peace. One is identifiable as state-led 'nation-building' and the other as regional-based 'nation-building'. Both discursive formations suffer from the same polarised concepts of nationalism that leads to many conflicts globally.
Neither a homogenized national identity nor discrete identities accurately describe South Africa's existing cultural geography which includes a multiplicity of overlapping and cross-cutting identities. In many ways, the exploitation of cheap black labour was apartheid's central contradiction since it created a variegated mix of races and cultures in and surrounding the major city-states - Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth (Lemon 1990: 209).
3. Mobilizing Ethnicity
The IFP would cease to exist as a powerful role-player without the capacity to mobilize on the basis of Zulu identity. For the IFP this has meant mass gatherings, cultural activities, feasts, and speeches where political mobilization is effected through discourse that reinforces Zulu identity and equates it to IFP membership. Some of this rhetoric is directed against the government. During 1995 and 1996 Chief Buthelezi repeatedly incited large crowds of up to 40,000 people to "rise and resist" central government plans from which a "great evil" will arise (Williams 1995: 20; MacLeod 1995:26).
In turn, the ANC commonly misrepresent Zulu nationalism as an attempt by a regional elite to sustain privileges granted under apartheid (Wilmsen, Dubow, and Sharp 1994) . The idea that sub-state nationalism results only from an elite dispensing patronage dismisses the historical and cultural foundations of traditional communities (historic memory, symbols, folklore, pride, mythology) globally and throughout Africa. Nationalism is far more complex than that reductionist argument (Glassner 1993: 305; Griggs 1995b, Wilmsen et al, 1994).
Mobilising ethnicity also includes co-opting and competing for ethnic loyalties. For the ANC this is a philosophically contradictory tactic that has been undertaken and formalised by placing traditional leaders on the government payroll. The tactics of co-opting and competing for ethnic loyalties does not appear to build peace. Both seem to backfire and foment violence by dividing Zulu loyalties (Johnson 1995a).
Nonetheless this policy has been pursued vigorously. In 1996 President Mandela argued that the "only solution" to the problem of KwaZulu-Natal is the "mass mobilization" of people in the province to join the ANC (Seery 1996).
Neither IFP nor ANC impositions (regional hierarchies and central government hierarchies) allow traditional peoples, who comprise half the population, to seek out local structures that satisfy their criteria for decision-making (Rutsch 1995).
4. Exploiting party capacity for delivering development
The provincial ANC has a significant advantage over the IFP in terms of delivery. First, expertise is concentrated along the Durban-Pietermaritzburg corridor including development experts, engineers, lawyers and others who have the know-how to compete for government funding. Since the the national cabinet is at liberty to withdraw funds if it seems they are not being spent properly or fast enough, it often favours the urban areas.
For example, some 100 million rand of RDP money that was made available in March 1994 to the province. Some twenty-two million was required for planning and some 88 million was to be split between Pietermaritzburg and rural areas. At the end of the day, the inability of rural areas to command the expertise for planning and spending the money along with a cabinet decision resulted in a redistribution of funding that allocated 54 million rand to Pietermaritzburg.
Efforts in the tribal areas to control development are accordingly less successful. In rural areas there is a fundamental lack of expertise and high rates or illiteracy. Communication between Inkatha tribal chiefs and central government is also much weaker than between mayors of urban areas and cabinet members. Nonetheless many amakhosi attempt to direct development in their areas through tight control of the Tribal Development Boards and often the tribal ward councillors who attend the regional council meetings.
5. Threats of violence
Threats can be implicit or explicit. The former tends to have a higher value than the latter since explicit threats are more easily discredited.
The problem of explicit threats was well illustrated at the 1995 May Day Rally in Durban when President Mandela threatened to withdraw funds from KwaZulu-Natal owing to implicit IFP threats of violence. In consequence, violence erupted in which six people were shot and six houses in the vicinity torched. President Mandela had to be escorted to safety and in the following weeks was severely chastised by commentary in the press since his threat was unconstitutional: the executive is not empowered to withdraw funds from provinces (Johnston 1995a; Williams 1995).
Implicit threats are a more difficult tactic to counter. For instance, in the IFP mobilization of ethnicity rests the threat of increased violence but unless the IFP can be directly tied to fomenting violence their credibility and power base are not eroded. Thus investigations into an Inkatha-led and government-trained 'Third Force' that operated to foment violence in the region prior to the elections are a political priority for anyone seeking to diminish IFP power.
Violence is a coercive tactic used to both intimidate and destroy opposition people or groups. Both parties have employed this strategy but there may be some generalised difference in their patters of violence. IFP attacks appear much more random and can include whole communities such as the incident at Shobashobane in 1995. This fits with the IFP representations of the conflict as having a cultural content.
Interestingly, much ANC-associated political violence takes the form of assassinating IFP leaders (more than 400 over 14 years). This correlates with the ANC representation that IFP-Zulu identity is a product of an elite dispensing patronage.
The only silver-lining in this dark cloud of violence over party loyalty is that it might compel both parties toward the negotiating table, a forum that can yield greater benefit than killing, even in terms of geostrategy.
Conclusion: How not to reproduce spaces of violence
If the geostrategies aimed at increasing political party control in the province remain the principal aim of the two competing parties we do not have reason to believe that present peace initiatives represent a breakthrough. The constancy of the tactics in conjunction with the existing party representations of the 'other' do not allow any real concessions to geographic democracy.
To avoid reproducing geographies of violence, negotiations should attend to the following seven principles:
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