Ending The Armed Conflict In South Africa (Natal)

Ending The Armed Conflict In South Africa (Natal)

Year(s): 1992 – 1994.

Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict, Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Diplomacy and the mediation of a peace agreement.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Government of South Africa (Transitional Executive Council).

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The armed conflict between the ANC and Inkatha/IFP in the South African province of Natal during the end of apartheid was ended.

Description of Case 

The African National Congress (ANC) was the dominant opposition force in apartheid South Africa, but it was not the only one. In the KwaZulu Homeland in Natal, the Inkatha (from 1990 Inkatha Freedom Party, IFP) rose from the mid-1970s to become a powerful force in South African politics. In contrast to the militant campaign of the ANC, the IFP chose a path of reform to end apartheid. The IFP governed KwaZulu Homeland during the apartheid era, while the ANC was officially banned. This allowed it to develop a considerable support base, organise its own security forces, and entrench its position as a rival to the aspirations of the ANC leadership.[1] As the ANC stepped up its military campaign in the 1980s, clashes began taking place with armed IFP supporters in Natal. In 1990, elements within the South African security forces (often referred to as a “Third Force”) started covertly supporting the IFP in its struggle against the ANC, arming its members and providing funds and military training.[2] Further weapons could be easily acquired from neighbouring Mozambique after decades of war. This transformed the conflict, sparking an eruption of fighting around Pietermaritzburg in March that became known as the Seven Days War. Over 200 people were killed and 20,000 were forced from their homes. In July, the violence spread to the surrounds of Johannesburg, and in 1991 a battle involving 2,000 ANC and IFP personnel took place at Umgababa in Natal.[3]

Efforts to end the conflict between the ANC and IFP began in January 1991 with talks in Durban. These culminated with a formal ceasefire and an agreement which recognised that the conflict between the two organisations had already cost more than 8,000 lives, and that they should work together to end apartheid rather than fight each other.[4] Despite these pledges, clashes continued between ANC and IFP supporters as South Africa began its transition to democracy. The 1994 elections were rejected by the KwaZulu leadership, who sought to retain the autonomy they enjoyed under the Homelands system. This sparked another surge in armed clashes in Natal between ANC and IFP supporters, which in turn led to the declaration of another state of emergency.[5] Just days before the elections were scheduled to go ahead, mediation by US and UK diplomats helped to convince the IFP to participate in the elections, calming a potentially volatile situation.[6] The IFP joined the ANC in a coalition government for a decade after the election, marking the formal end of the conflict, although clashes between supporters continued in Natal until 1996.

[1] UCDP. IFP. (UCDP, 2021) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/actor/1117 (Accessed 16/11/2021)

[2] Stephen Ellis. “The Historical Significance of South Africa’s Third Force.” Journal of South African Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2. (1998) p.284

[3] Gastrow. Bargaining for Peace. p.14

[4] African National Congress/ Inkatha Freedom Party Agreement, 1991. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/view/220 (Accessed 16/11/2021)

[5] Bob Drogin. “S. Africa Declares State of Emergency in Natal Province: Violence: De Klerk sends troops into Zulu-dominated region, where Chief Buthelezi opposes this month’s national all-race elections. Mandela applauds crackdown.” Los Angeles Times. (1 April 1994) Available at: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-04-01-mn-41016-story.html (Accessed 16/11/2021)

[6] Richard Carver. “Kwazulu-Natal – Continued Violence and Displacement.” WRITENET. (1 July 1996) Available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6bc4.html (Accessed 16/11/2021)