The historical significance of South Africa's Third Force

TitleThe historical significance of South Africa's Third Force
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsS.D.K. Ellis
Secondary TitleJournal of Southern African studies
Pagination261 - 299
Date Published1998///
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, history, national liberation movements, national security, peace negotiations, policy, South Africa, violence

Accounts of South Africa's transition from apartheid differ markedly in the role they attribute to violence. The most influential narratives of negotiations tend to portray the violence of the transition period, including that perpetrated by those networks within and without the security forces which have become known collectively as the Third Force, as a reaction to events, doomed to failure and rather disconnected from the main narrative of history. Newly available evidence shows the degree to which the Third Force was integrated into the policy of the National Party (NP) over a long period (from the 1960s onwards), and played a crucial role in determining the nature and outcome of constitutional negotiations in the period 1990-1994. Concentration on the narrative of negotiations, or any account which fails to give due weight to the perpetrators of organized violence including those who constituted the Third Force, implicitly assigns the violence of 1990-1994 to a position somewhat divorced from, or even antithetical to, the pursuit of negotiations. This has deflected attention from the important question of ascertaining the extent to which the agenda and pace of negotiations, and thus the shape of the eventual political and constitutional outcome, were actually driven by proponents of violence who were able to make their influence felt from outside the conference chamber. Ref., sum

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Citation Key1785