n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Voting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal's no-go areas : coercive mobilisation and territorial control in post-conflict elections

Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


Post-conflict elections have become an important tool of international conflict resolution over the last decades. Theoretical studies usually point out that in war-to-democracy transitions, military logics of territorial control are transformed into electoral logics of peaceful political contestation. Empirical reality, however, shows that the election process is often accompanied by various forms of violence. This paper analyses post-conflict elections in war-to-democracy transitions by comparing support structures for conflict parties as well as their coercive mobilisation strategies in times of violent conflict and post-conflict elections. It does so through a single case study of KwaZulu-Natal. This South African province faced a civil war-scale political conflict in the 80s and early 90s in which the two fighting parties - the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) - used large-scale violence to establish and protect no-go areas of territorial control. This study finds that in the first decade after South Africa's miraculous transition, these spatial structures of violence and control persisted at local levels. Violent forms of mobilisation and territorial control thus seem to be able to survive even a successful transition to democracy by many years. Measures to open up the political landscape, deescalate heated-up party antagonisms and overcome geopolitical borders of support structures seem to be crucial elements for post-conflict elections that introduce a pluralist democracy beyond the voting process.

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