Table of Contents

  • At their last summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, in October 1991, Commonwealth Heads of Government gave a mandate to the Commonwealth Secretary-General to visit South Africa and explore with the principal parties concerned ways in which the Commonwealth could assist in lending momentum to the negotiating process. In July 1992, during his third such trip to that country, the Secretary-General proposed to the Government and principal parties that a multidisciplinary team of Commonwealth experts provide practical assistance to arrest the ongoing violence, which had emerged as the key impediment to negotiations.

  • COMSA came to South Africa to provide practical assistance to indigenous structures seeking to promote peace. It would, however, have been impossible – indeed short-sighted – to have ignored the political context in which that violence occurred.

  • The state of violence in South Africa was a major reason for the commitment of international observers to this nation under the terms of Resolution 772 of the United Nations Security Council. The nature of that violence has been vividly portrayed on the television screens of countless millions of people around the world. Massacres such as those at Boipatong and Bisho have now joined Sharpeville in the lexicon of place-names associated with apartheid and the bloodshed it has provoked.

  • United Nations Security Council Resolution 772 of 17 August 1992 called on international observers both to work in close co-ordination with, and help strengthen the structures set up under, the National Peace Accord. This Accord, signed by a broad spectrum of political parties and other interest groups on 14 September 1991, is one of the few truly consensual documents to have emerged in South Africa over the past two years. Its provisions are comprehensive, applications far reaching and its relevance extends well into the future.

  • Few areas of government in a nation state provide more compelling evidence of that state's commitment to the rule of law, and to the protection of human rights, than the administration of justice. Under the former apartheid regime in South Africa, the system of criminal justice – police, prosecution, courts and corrections – played a central role in enforcing the draconian laws which supported the apartheid structure. Under the guise of a set of legal rules and principles this system administered justice in a ruthless and efficient manner which paid scant regard to either the rule of law or basic civil liberties.

  • Law enforcement is a formidable problem in South Africa today. In any society undergoing massive political change, the agencies of law enforcement come under pressure, but in South Africa the problem is compounded.

  • Violence in South Africa is deeply rooted in the country's history and continued political uncertainty. A Government which is accepted by all peoples of South Africa would, in COMSA's view, be in a better position to deal effectively with the violence than a Government which does not. Progress towards a political settlement, which, it is hoped, would also bring with it fundamental socio-economic reforms, is therefore crucial to providing a longterm solution to the problem of violence.