Violence: The Biggest Obstacle

Article excerpt

By Security Council resolution 772 (1992), adopted on 17 August, the Secretary-General was authorized to deploy the UN Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA). The aim is to help open channels of communication between communities, reduce political intolerance and create a spirit of reconciliation among South Africans of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Observers from 36 different countries participate in demonstrations, marches, rallies and other forms of mass action and, over the last year, have covered more than 8,500 events and meetings throughout the country. They also maintain informal contacts at all levels with established governmental structures, political leaders and parties, as well as civic organizations and other groups.

Against a backdrop of optimism with respect to the multiparty negotiations and the setting of a date for elections, UNOMSA observers continue to draw attention to important issues which pose a serious threat in the transition to democratic rule in the country These include: the unacceptably high levels of political violence which still plague the country; the difficulties facing the National Peace Accord; and the uncertainties surrounding preparations for free and fair elections.

The Human Rights Commission has recorded 352 incidents of political violence in June 1993, well down from more than 500 incidents in April and May, respectively. The total number of incidents during the first-half of 1993 was 2,178, 2.5 per cent higher than the first half of 1992. The number of deaths recorded in the first six months of 1993 was 1,387, some 23 per cent lower.

One of the most affected areas is the Natal region, with 744 deaths in the first half of 1993.

The Pretoria/Witwatersrand/Vaal region, where violent fluctuations occur, registered 91 deaths in June, bringing the figure to 441 in the first six months, compared to 1,177 deaths in the first half of 1992.

While key aspects of the violence continue to be the conflicts between hostel dwellers and residents of surrounding townships, and train and taxi violence, the underlining causes of it continue to be: the lack of political tolerance, especially between supporters of the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party; allegations of security force involvement in the violence; poor police/community relations; the appalling social and economic conditions, which millions have to endure in the black townships and elsewhere; and right-wing violence. …