This paper explores the severe rupture that occurred in the politics of KwaZulu-Natal in the mid 1980s. This rupture is captured in the violent form political conflict took as it griped the province during the latter 1980s and early 1990s. This broader process is examined through an investigation of local level political violence in Mpumalanga Township. During the 1980s, Mpumalanga Township (located about half way between Pietermaritzburg and Durban) was one of the areas most acutely affected by political violence. In order to understand how this rupture occurred and its consequences, it is necessary to look back at a complex set of processes that interlocked over space and time. Violence, it is argued, is embedded in the articulation between local, regional and national dynamics. There are complex relationships between, on the one hand, political interests, social groups and organisational forms, and on the other, the dynamics of gender and generation, with both feeding into political violence.
A second dynamic that this paper explores is the form violence took. The legacies that remain ten years after peace was negotiated are a direct result of the modalities of the preceding violence. It is suggested that political violence exhibited a profoundly spatialised form in combination with gendered and generational forms. This can be seen at a number of levels. Firstly, there were differences within KZN with some areas being more acutely affected than others. Not only was the violence unevenly spread across the province (both in intensity and in location) but places were affected at different times. Secondly, within the places affected by violence there were distinct moments when the form of the violence shifted. As the form of the violence shifted it moved from conventional political sites to new arenas. The spatial character drew the population into the violence according to their gender and age, so that this spatialised form was finely interwoven with a gendered and generational form.
Bonnin, D. Working Paper No.44. Understanding the Legacies of Political Violence: An Examination of Political Conflict in Mpumalanga Township, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. (2004) 21 pp.