South Africa Conflict

South Africa

SPITCEROW Analysis of the South African Conflict of the Early 1990s: Apartheid's End

This paper examines the conflict occurring in South Africa in the early 1990s using the SPITCEROW model, consisting of an analysis of the conflict's sources, parties, issues, tactics, changes, enlargements, roles of other parties, outcome, and the identification of a winner insofar as it can be established. Each of these elements of the conflict is discussed independently, yet the interrelations between these various elements are also seen to be explicitly and inextricably linked. The issue of apartheid in South Africa had long been a political problem as well as a major issue of concern for national and international justice and human rights, and changes made by the ruling whit government in 1990 led to an initial escalation of the political conflict that eventually led to its resolution, but only after a number of parties and both internal and external factors had wielded their influence on the nation and its politics, as well as rendering judgment on the system of apartheid itself. Violence was not a hallmark feature of the conflict, though there were instances of both organized and isolated violence as a direct result of various groups' involvement in the conflict, but rather the political process and appeals to massive public opinion at both the national and international levels was used by both sides to reach an agreement -- or at least to establish a new and more equitable status quo -- that still serves the nation's needs for government, justice, and economic stability today.


Many indigenous peoples and cultures were marginalized, disenfranchised, and even enslaved by European arrivals in Africa, North and South America, and parts of Asia during the wide spread of imperialism that began in earnest in the late fifteenth century and continued largely unabated well into the twentieth century, in many areas. The effects of this long period of imperialism are still being dealt with in many if not all of the countries that were subjected to foreign rule, and racial and ethnic backgrounds continue to apply a large role in these countries' development and political history. Though imperialism was almost entirely ended in the aftermath of the Second World War, the better part of a century later the descendants of the imperial era are still trying to sort out the instabilities and conflicts created by the adversarial nature and framework of foreign rule and domination. This can be seen as the direct cause of many internal conflicts occurring in the freed countries of the former imperialized world, particularly in Africa.

Few such conflicts are more prominent in the public consciousness, if only for the overt racism that was an inherent part of the system, than the struggle against apartheid in South Africa that came to a head -- and largely to a close -- in the last decade of the twentieth century. Though the country had been independent form British rule for decades, a sizeable white majority of Dutch settlers had existed in the country prior to British imperialism and remained after it ended, and during the years of apartheid this white minority controlled the entire political power structure of the country. The situation was, by almost all accounts, highly unjust and highly untenable given the majority of black South Africans.

This paper examines the specifics of the conflict in the 1990s, when what at first appeared to be attempts at reconciliation and achieving justice on the part of the white leadership led only to a sharper division between the various political groups that emerged as soon as they were able to. By applying a SPITCEROW analysis -- an identification and discussion of the conflict's sources, parties, issues, tactics, changes, enlargements, roles of other parties, outcome, and the "winner" (if indeed a winner emerged) -- to the South African, a deeper understanding of the way the problems of imperialism continue to play out today can be achieved (Von Feigneblatt 2008). This paper will carry out this comprehensive analysis by conducting a deliberate progression through the SPITCEROW model, culminating in an overall assessment of the South African conflict.


The source of the conflict is of course rooted in the domination of the native black population of South Africa by subsequent waves of white European immigrants, including the direct imperial rule of the British Empire that lasted well into the twentieth century (Von Feigenblatt 2008). The overt racism inherent to the government since the Afrikaners National Party, the party of the majority of Boers, took control of the government in 1948 and established a much tighter control over the black population in the country than had been exercised by the British, who were largely in favor of semi-independent self-rule for many of their colonies (Ottoway 1993). Political inequalities led to economic inequalities as well, of course, and these differences are the sources of the conflict (Von Feigenblatt 2008).


Although the conflict took place largely along racial lines, there are more than two simple parties to this conflict, and this is largely what the changes taking place in the early 1990s showed. Essentially, however, the conflict's parties can be broken into the government establishment -- including both the political party in power and the bureaucracy it had created, the liberation movement (primarily the African National Congress and smaller supporting organizations), and the so-called second-tier parties -- mainstream parties with less momentum than the major players, radical parties that recognized their inability to exert influence and so refused participation in the political process, and the independent and semi-independent governments of the various homeland areas established within the country (Ottaway 1993, pp. 63). Each of these groups had some influence on the degree of the conflict and the direction of its progression throughout the early part of the decade.


The primary issues confronting the parties in this conflict were the need to establish economic justice amongst peoples that had been kept disparately apart by an unfair political system, a dismantling of this political system, developing a new constitution and government, and settling land disputes that had long been occurring (Von Feigenblatt 2008). Overcoming racism in thought and action was also a major concern that essentially lay underneath each of these other identified issues (Ottoway 1993).


There were a variety of tactics used by the various parties to this conflict as it progressed, and many tactics were similarly employed by often highly disparate parties. The African National Congress used mass mobilization as a primary tactic in its rise to power and its maintenance of some momentum, but other liberation groups used similar tactics at cross purposes to the ANC, undermining the power derived form this strategy to some degree (Von Feigenblatt 2008). Some groups, including some liberation groups and other political parties and groups more closely associated with the government establishment, also used violence and direct power tactics as a way of suppressing their opposition in the earlier days of the conflict (Von Feigenblatt 2008). Eventually, more traditional and stable tactics of negotiations and use of the political process became the primary tactics of both parties, however, leading to the creation of a new constitution (Ottoway 1993).


The primary change in the situation in South Africa that sparked the dramatic rise in the conflict in the 1990s was the release of Nelson Mandela and the un-banning of the African national Congress and the anti-apartheid movement (Ottoway 1993). These concessions brought the conflict rapidly and violently to the forefront of not only political though, but political action in the country. Radical movements on the right and the left were also losing power in the preceding decades, which paved the way for the emergence of this conflict (Von Feigenblatt 2008).


The un-banning of anti-apartheid movements also led directly to enlargements of the conflict, as did the government's intractable position during the first few years of the 1990s (Ottoway 1993; Von Feigenblatt 2008). The decentralization of governmental control that both the government and the African National Congress pushed for also helped to enlarge the conflict in the early 1990s, as it provided impetus for local activist groups to attempt to gain greater control from the main players in the conflict and thus prolonged and complicated the conflict (Ottoway 1993). As the black South Africans and their various and often disparate political groups gained power and control throughout the period, the conflict also necessarily enlarged as there were actually two (or more) sides with the ability to engage in a conflict, rather than an entirely dominant force and one that is completely subjugated.

Roles of Other Parties

The international context in which the South African conflict emerged was hugely influential in the development of the conflict itself. Soviet involvement in southern Africa and communist parties and movements within South Africa specifically inspired concerns from the United States regarding Soviet and Communist expansion, and human rights pressures from other nations and international financial institutions were also major concerns and considerations during the conflict and…