While politicians argue about political solutions to the KwaZulu-Natal conflict, violence monitors say only the justice system can end the violence, reports Ann
Political violence has left at least 5 000 people destitute in KwaZulu-Natal over the past four months—and those are the survivors. More than 1 200 have been killed in the same period and the Human Rights Committee attributes at least 286 of those deaths to politics.
KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas puts the figure much higher—at 481 from April to mid-August, with 225 killings in the six-week period starting July 1.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided emergency assistance to some 5 000 refugees, arson victims and dependants of murdered breadwinners between April and July. More than 500 homes have been destroyed in political arson so far this year.
Hundreds of refugees wait for peace in camps dotting the countryside, while thousands more struggle to survive “in the bush”, or pile into the already overcrowded homes of relatives in neighbouring areas.
While the province continues to burn, politicians in the provincial and national governments have made little progress toward resolving the interminable power struggle in South Africa’s “killing fields”, and political obstructionism has caused delays in development in the province, where at least R150- million in Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) money lies dormant.
Promises made by President Nelson Mandela in March and Safety and Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi again in May to crack down on the violence have failed to translate into action—until this week. Mufamadi’s plan, announced on Tuesday, to send 1 000 extra security forces to the province, has been welcomed by violence monitors and African National Congress provincial leaders as “a step in the right direction”.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) provincial structures, however, remain sceptical. While cautiously welcoming the extra deployments, Cosatu KwaZulu-Natal secretary Paulos Ngcobo said the labour federation’s threatened mass action to demand an end to violence remained an issue: “So far, we have not changed our minds. In the past year, many people have come to KwaZulu-Natal giving us promises of greener pastures regarding the violence, but the next day they leave and nothing changes,” he said.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal safety and security committee chairman Bheki Cele was more confident: “The extra security forces are already here. This time they came before Mufamadi did.”
Mufamadi’s announcement that intelligence officers and detectives would accompany the force build-up, combined with plans to send South African National Defence Force and South African Police Services personnel on mixed patrols, promises to answer many of the problems highlighted earlier by observers.
Combined with the announcement last week of plans to withdraw permits on some 3 000 G-3 rifles granted to Zulu chiefs, indunas and other Inkatha Freedom Party supporters by the former KwaZulu homeland government on September 1, and continued efforts by the Investigation Task Unit to crack the hit squad networks in the province, most observers say the plan appears the most comprehensive effort yet to get to grips with more than a decade of carnage.
Opposition from the IFP, however, appears to be a primary hurdle. Initially rejecting the plan—as it has all previous central government security initiatives in the province—on grounds its provincial Safety and Security MEC Celani Mtetwa had not been consulted, the IFP has raised several other points of contention.
IFP senator Phillip Powell said the security force deployments were a “quick-fix solution” for a province where 16 000 additional permanent police officers were needed. Reiterating IFP claims that SANDF troops—comprising ex-Umkhonto weSizwe members—had been part of the problem in the province, Powell also lashed out at the SAPS contingent, charging that, “it is the ISU unit 19 which has been the apartheid shock force used by PW Botha and De Klerk to enforce apartheid policy in the 1980s and 1990s”.
The support of the ANC and violence monitors is also qualified. Despite welcoming the long-awaited reinforcements, they warn the plan will not provide a long-term solution on its own.
The ANC’s Cele says the extra deployments can only “provide a breathing space for a political solution to be found—only a political solution will bring lasting peace”.
HRC Durban researcher Makubetse Sekhonyane warned: “If the political bickering between the politicians doesn’t stop, the chances of stopping violence on the ground are limited.”
On this Powell agreed, saying: “The permament solution is a political compromise.”
What exactly this widely used expression means, however, remains the problem. Powell’s idea of a political solution is that “central government will have to realise it can’t unilaterally impose a future dispensation on the province ... The IFP is morally obligated to resist it”.
Cele’s interpretation is that: “The IFP must understand they have to rule by consensus, they have to understand the solution lies in South Africa (not in international mediation). They must stop unnecessary extra- parliamentary tactics, and IFP national leaders must stop running the province by remote control.”
De Haas rejects the notion outright: “There is no political solution, because if you give in to the IFP, you’re inviting a Bosnia situation. It would be exceedingly dangerous to have greater regional powers in this country because of the coincidence of regions and ethnic enclaves. Just look at Nigeria—they had a federation before the Biafran War.”
For De Haas, the solution lies “in the criminal justice system ... expose the key people, prosecute them and then keep them in jail. It wouldn’t take many arrests to bring violence way down in this province, but the problem comes when you have hundreds of cases which never get investigated properly”.
Welcoming the extra detectives promised by Mufamadi to cut through the backlog, De Haas warned that they must be used efficiently: “They won’t make any headway if they’re investigating hundreds of cases in one area, and hundreds in another area. They need to be given a few relatively easy cases which will lead to the main
A common criticism shared by the ANC, HRC, De Haas, Cosatu and the Community Policing Network of NGOs indeed focuses on the criminal justice system. They say the rate at which violent criminals are released on bail is a serious problem impeding good investigations. With criminals charged with murder returning to their communities, people are afraid to testify.
Cosatu’s Ngcobo said: “At the moment you can kill a person at 1:00, appear in court at 1:30 and be back home by 2:00. That has to stop.”
In a statement, Cosatu also called for the dismissal of KwaZulu-Natal Attorney General Tim McNally, who, the statement said, had “dismally failed to do his duty, as he is reluctant to prosecute the well-known warlords in cutting edge. A world of new ideas.