Making peace in South Africa in 1991


By Gwydion M. Williams

Is it just a coincidence that a series of damaging leaks about Inkatha came out shortly after their rivals in the ANC took a large step towards repudiating their old allies in the South African Communist Party? It had been alleged for years that the South African government was backing Inkatha, but for a mass of solid proof to suddenly emerge suggests that a high-level decision had been made.

In my view, de Klerk is playing a very clever and complex game. He can only be further helped by the fighting between his far-right enemies and the police. He may have connived it, it may have just happened, the important point is that no police force reacts kindly to being attacked, and they are now more likely to support de Klerk against his rivals.

Mr de Klerk is hardly an admirable character, but he does seem to offer the best chance of changing South Africa without a civil war. Given also that the post-Stalin Communist movement has made a total mess of almost every single situation that it has been involved in, I think that Mandela did the right thing.

[A race war was widely expected at the time.  When it did not happen, Mandela was correctly credited for this.  But I think the training he got from the Communists before they became incoherent played a role.

[Inkatha found a role as a sectarian Zulu party.  It was even part of a Unite Coalition till 2004.  Since then it has deservedly dwindled to less than 5%.  Most Zulus – nearly 25% of the population – reject sectarian politics.]

This article appeared in Newsnotes for September 1991,