Commonwealth Election Reports

2310-1512 (online)
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Commonwealth Election Reports, the reports of Commonwealth Observer Groups, Missions or Expert Teams, are independently prepared by the team members as a contribution to the democracy and consensus-building in Commonwealth countries.

Violence in South Africa

Violence in South Africa

The Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa: Phase 1: October 1992 – January 1993 You do not have access to this content

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Commonwealth Observer Group
01 Jan 1993
9781848595361 (PDF)
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  • Introduction

    The Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa (COMSA) was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General in October 1992. This followed a proposal he had put to the Government and principal political parties in South Africa for a multidisciplinary team of Commonwealth experts who would provide practical assistance to arrest the ongoing violence, and the invitation for international organisations to send observers to the country under United Nations Security Council Resolution 772.

  • The Political Context

    In our first report, we stressed that violence in South Africa cannot be divorced from the political context in which it occurs. We stated that it would be naive to assume that violence will automatically end with the installation of a democratically elected government, but noted that a representative government is far better placed to address the root causes of violence.

  • The State of Violence

    At about 10.25 a.m. on Saturday, 10 April 1993, Chris Hani, the Secretary-General of the SACP, was shot dead in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, a small and predominantly white town in the East Rand. Within minutes of the killing, as a result of vehicle identification information provided by a white neighbour of Mr Hani's, police arrested the alleged assassin, Jan Walus (40), a Polish immigrant to South Africa.

  • Strengthening the Structures set up under the National Peace Accord

    In the report on the first phase of COMSA, we cited the National Peace Accord (NPA), signed by a broad spectrum of political parties and other interest groups on 14 September 1991, as ‘one of the few truly consensual documents to have emerged in South Africa’. A recent survey of the Accord by the Johannesburg-based Finance Week magazine echoes this sentiment when it notes that:

  • Observing Public Gatherings

    Much of the time of international observers, COMSA included, has been taken up with monitoring marches and demonstrations. These are crucial to free political expression. They are also all too frequently flashpoints for violence, especially given the often tense relations between marchers and law enforcement agencies.

  • The Administration of Justice

    Few physical structures provide more graphic monuments to the era of apartheid than South Africa's police stations, court houses and prisons.

  • Towards Democratic Policing

    COMSA has now spent almost eight months in South Africa observing, listening and learning about police/community relationships and acting as a catalyst for change through a wide range of contacts with the police. These contacts started in the field, where through our observations of marches and public gatherings (see Chapter 5), we met police officers and offered practical suggestions. As described in Chapter 4, COMSA has also frequently interacted with the police involved in the RPCs and LPCs.

  • Socio-Economic Reconstruction

    In the report on COMSA's first phase, we cited the huge disparities in wealth in South Africa as a root cause of violence.

  • Observations

    As South Africans move within reach of democratic elections, a daunting array of obstacles lies ahead. Of these, none has assumed such a fearsome and pervasive presence as violence.

  • Photographs of COMSA Activities and Annexes
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