As South Africa went to the polls on 27 April 1994, many voters must have wondered what the future would hold. After 4 years of unremitting destabilisation in which 14 000 lives had been lost, would the elections simply open the door to further violence and instability along the pattern of the rejected election outcome in Angola or would they result in instant success in eliminating or at least markedly reducing political violence as happened after the elections of Namibia? The coming days, weeks and months would be critical in revealing which direction South Africa was to take.
What actually unfolded after the elections is described in some detail below, relying upon careful monitoring of some 4600 incidents by HRC during a subsequent period of 32 months.
The abrupt and dramatic decline in political violence after the democratic elections of 27 April 1994 is starkly illustrated in Fig. 21, which traces the deaths in political violence throughout the country recorded by HRC from January 1994 to December 1996. During the month of the elections, HRC recorded 487 such deaths. During the next month the figure plummeted to 195, a drop of 60%, followed by a further drop of 10% the following month. Since then, with minor fluctuations, the trend has been ever downwards. By way of comparison, the average monthly death tolls from political violence recorded by HRC in successive periods are shown below
Average monthly political death tolls
• Run-up to the elections (July 1993 to April 1994) - 461
• Post election months (May 1994 to December 1994) - 133
• Year of 1995 (January to December) - 100
• Year of 1996 (January to December) - 83
Unpacking the statistics
Even the above statistics do not reveal the full extent of the de-escalation in political violence subsequent to the elections. To obtain a clearer picture we need to examine various components contributing to these statistics and in particular to focus attention on 3 forms of violence which, while they had strong political origins, can now, in present circumstances, best be described as socio-economic violence with, at most, political overtones. These are: taxi violence, stock-theft violence and mine violence.
This is certainly a form of violence which harks back to the era of destabilisation. It first emerged as a variant of indiscriminate terror attacks on commuters (train, bus and taxi) but there is no doubt that its character has changed to a war for turf in an emergent form of survival for tens of thousands engaged in the informal sector. Deaths in this form of violence are occurring in virtually all of the provinces of South Africa. Numbers of deaths recorded by HRC in the periods referred to above, are as follows:
A not yet fully explained phenomenon, first noted in September 1993, has arisen in the Tsolo and Qumbu districts of Transkei in the Eastern Cape and, for want of a better description, is being referred to as stock-theft violence. The death toll in this conflict is quite considerable and because of its undeniable political overtones cannot be ignored in general reporting of political violence. However, because of its isolated and particular nature, it makes sense to separate out such statistics when assessing, as we are doing in this chapter, the national levels of ongoing political destabilisation. For the record, the number of deaths in stock-theft violence are as follows:
Clashes amongst workers on mines have taken place during 1995 and 1996 which are difficult to categorise as political, ethnic, socio-economic or as a combination of these.
There is no doubt where the origins and responsibility for such conflict lie, but it makes no sense to distort violence levels in the statistics of a particular province in which the mines happen to be located. The total numbers are in any event, relatively small. In 1995 there were 15 deaths attributable to mine violence while in 1996 the number rose to 31.
Adjusted post-election statistics
By separating out the deaths caused by taxi, stock-theft and mine violence we are left with a more meaningful and undistorted picture of post-election political violence. Below is an adjusted version of the previous figures taking this separation into account.
Adjusted monthly death toll
• Run-up to the elections (July 1993 to April 1994) - 452
• Post-election months (May 1994 to December 1994) - 106
• Year of 1995 (January to December) - 75
• Year of 1996 (January to December) - 42
On this basis, political tension and destabilisation was running during 1996 at a level less than 10% of that during the run-up period to the elections. Just where the residual tension continues and at what intensity is shown in Fig. 22
KwaZulu/Natal clearly emerges as the main contributor. In the 8 post-election months of 1994, KZN accounted for 67% of the political deaths, rising to 89% in 1995 and reaching 84% in 1996. Gauteng, after accounting for 26% of political deaths during the cooling-off post-election period of 1994, was almost eclipsed as a contributor in 1995 (5.7%) and 1996 (10.0%). Other areas combined came close to being free of political deaths contributing only 7.8% in post-election 1994, 5.2% in 1995 and 5.5% in 1996. In summary it can be said that, except for KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa is now substantially free of the kind of political violence which results in deaths on an ongoing basis.