Revolutions always seem impossible before they happen and inevitable afterwards. The same is true of negotiated settlements to end civil wars. South Africans, now accustomed to constitutional rule, tend to regard their settlement as pre-ordained but this was certainly not the case. The negotiations were repeatedly wracked by crises of various kinds. Shortly before the first democratic election in 1994, the level of violence was so high and conservative parties were so opposed to the settlement that free and fair elections seemed improbable. At that time the country appeared to be at the edge of an abyss. The aim of this paper is to identify the reasons for South Africa's successful transition to democracy, through a conjunction of favourable factors: political; leadership; process; institutional; and social and structural.
Nathan, L., Discussion Paper No.5, Accounting for South Africa’s Successful Transition to Democracy, 2004, London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 10 pp.