How SA emerged as a democracy from the crises of the 1990s

Settlement

Multi Party Negotiation Process: April 1993

On 2 April 1993, the Multi-Party Negotiation Process (MPNP) began at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park. The structure and process was very different to CODESA. Non-partisan specialists were included, and they helped speed up proceedings and resolve areas of difference. In contrast to CODESA, the white right (the Conservative Party and the Afrikaner Volksunie), the Pan Africanist Congress, the KwaZulu Bantustan government and delegations of "traditional leaders" initially participated in the Multiparty Negotiating Forum.

The structure of the MPNP was comprehensive and more efficient than the five working groups of CODESA. Working groups were replaced by the negotiating council, which reported to a negotiating forum. The negotiating forum was responsible for finalising all decisions made. All agreements were sent to the plenary for endorsement. Technical committees comprising non-party experts were established to deal with written submissions from the various political players. This committee was effective in breaking deadlocks.

The two main negotiating parties, the ANC and the NP, agreed to reach bilateral consensus on issues before taking them to the other parties in the forum. This put considerable pressure on the other parties to agree with the consensus or be left behind.

In protest at the perceived sidelining of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosuthu Buthelezi took the IFP out of the MPNF and formed the Concerned South Africans Group (COSAG; later renamed the "Freedom Alliance") together with traditional leaders, homeland leaders and white right-wing groups. A period of brinkmanship followed, with the IFP remaining out of the negotiations until within days of the election on 27 April 1994.

Assassination of Chris Hani and Right Wing Threats

On Saturday morning, 10 April 1993, during the Easter weekend, Chris Hani was shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, by right-winger Janusz Walus - a Polish immigrant. Walus had been watching the Hani home for some time prior to the incident with a view to executing the plot to assassinate Hani, which was devised by him and Clive Derby-Lewis, a prominent member of the Conservative Party.

The murder of Chris Hani threatened to derail the negotiation process. Hani was a popular leader of the South African Communist Party and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Nelson Mandela went on national television and called upon South Africans to act with restraint to prevent the country from being engulfed in civil war.

Walus and Derby-Lewis were arrested and went on trial. They received the death penalty and were awaiting execution when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. They applied to the TRC for amnesty in 1999. This was refused.

You can read the transcript of the TRC findings in this case on doj.gov.za

Hani's assassination was a serious threat to negotiations. The ANC called for the immediate announcement of the date for general elections and a Transitional Executive Council.

Right wing opposition took another turn when retired Chief Director of the SADF, General Groenewald and General Constand Viljoen, together with other ex-military leaders, formed a Committee of Generals. This committee formed the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF). General Groenewald warned of a right wing backlash from the ranks of the army in support of his demands for a separate white homeland (Volkstaat).

The extremist right wing AWB interrupted the negotiations on 15 June 15 1993, when they stormed the World Trade Centre in an armoured vehicle, breaking the glass front of the building. They entered the building with guns in a bid to wreck the negotiations.

Other violent threats to negotiations and settlement

a. King Williamstown Golf Club: November 1992

An attack on King William's Town Golf Club took place in November 1992 in which four people were killed. Azanian People's Liberation Army members claimed responsibility.

b. St James Massacre: July 1993

During the Sunday evening service on 25 July 1993, a group of APLA cadres attacked the St. James Church in Kenilworth. Using grenades and AK-47s, they killed 11 members of the congregation and wounded 58.

c. Amy Biehl: August, 1993

Amy Biehl, a 26 year old American student, was stoned and stabbed to death by a mob in the township shouting anti-white slogans. She was driving three black colleagues back to Cape Town's Gugulethu Township when a group of youths threw stones at her car and forced it to stop. Dozens of young men surrounded the car repeating the chant, "One settler [white person], one bullet!"

Amy was then pulled from the car, struck in the head with a brick, beaten and stabbed in the heart while she lay on the ground. During the attack, Amy's black friends yelled that she was a "comrade" and friend of black South Africans.

Amy's killers were convicted, but were given amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998. Her family supported their release.

Amy Biehl's spirit was kept alive by her family and friends, and still runs through the lives of many people.

d. Heidelburg Tavern: December 1993

An attack on the Heidelberg Tavern took place in Observatory, Cape Town in December 1993.

In an interview in 1997, Letlapa Mphahlele, who was APLA's Director of Operations, said that APLA would accept responsibility for the attack. APLA was a publicly known political organisation and liberation movement which was engaged in political struggle against the State at that time.

The killers applied for amnesty at the TRC. They were granted amnesty as they did not act for personal gain or out of personal malice, ill will or spite directed against the deceased and the victims. It was quite clear that they had no been sent there by their organisation to act on its behalf.

Ginn Fourie, mother of Lyndi, who died in the Heidelberg Tavern attack, was reconciled with Letlapa Mphahlele, the commander who ordered it. You can read their remarkable story on: iol.co.za

The Settlement of November 1993

The assassination of Chris Hani, leader of the SACP and a senior ANC leader, by white right-wingers brought the country to the brink of disaster. However, his death ultimately proved a turning point, after which the main parties pushed for a settlement with increased determination.

The MPNF ratified the interim Constitution in the early hours of the morning of 18 November 1993. Thereafter, a Transitional Executive Council oversaw the run-up to a democratic election.

Last updated : 21-Jul-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 22-Mar-2011