THE South African government is facing increasing political and
diplomatic pressure to review its opposition to an international
peacekeeping force to counter escalating political violence in the
country's black townships as political parties begin preparing for
the first nonracial ballot.
"There should be international monitoring of the situation, and
it should be looked at as a matter of some urgency," says African
National Congress (ANC) spokeswoman Gill Marcus.
Since a National Peace Accord was signed by the major parties to
the violence last September, more than 1,400 people have died in
township political violence, which ranges from random attacks on
commuters through group attacks on squatter camps and political
In the past eight weeks, more than 600 people have died in
violence in the black areas - mainly in the over-crowded townships
around Johannesburg and the peri-urban and rural areas of Natal
province, where a vicious civil war is being waged between
supporters of the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom
Western diplomats and human rights lawyers believe that it would
be impossible to hold an election in the current climate, and that
the widely discredited South African security forces have neither
the credibility nor the collective will to stabilize the situation.
This was born out by an incident in the Phola Park squatter camp
east of Johannesburg on April 8, when a controversial South African
Defense Force Unit - known as 32 Battalion - went on the rampage
after the soldiers say they were fired on, allegedly beating,
assaulting, and raping more than 100 people.
"It is quite clear that you could not hold elections in the
current climate," says Lloyd Vogelman, director of the Project for
the Study of Violence at Johannesburg's Witwatersrand University.
Climate for elections
This view was underscored in a recent report by a group of
visiting international jurists who studied the violence at the
invitation of Lawyers for Human Rights, a human rights lobby group.
The jurists found that both the ANC and the IFP had stepped up
violent attacks on each other and that it would be impossible to
hold free and fair elections under the circumstances.
Mr. Vogelman says that an international force would have to
include policing and judicial elements and would need to work
closely with existing security forces and law officers.
"It can't just be a United Nations peacekeeping force," he says.
"It would have to be able to prosecute and have the power of
A human rights lawyer involved in the follow-up investigation of
a judicial commission into the violence told the Monitor that he
believed the viciousness of the attack by 32 Battalion was linked
to indications that ANC-inspired "defense units" had taken control
at the camp, and had ousted community leaders responsible for the
defense of the squatter area.
"There is an uncontrollable spiral of attack and counter-attack
which is getting increasingly difficult to control," the lawyer
said. "The ANC may have to review its whole strategy of defense
units if the situation is to be brought under political control. …