Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
South African Peace Process, 1991-2003 Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

The victory over apartheid in South Africa was a kind of revolution. After struggling for generations against Apartheid, the Black and Indian populations of South Africa, led by the African National Congress (ANC), including the South African Communist Party, and with the support of the international community, succeeded by the end of the 1980s in obtaining an agreement for free elections to determine the future of the country. At that point the critical question arose as to whether the process would be characterized by war or peace.

As described in the UNESCO monograph on the Culture of Peace, the South African people chose peace, engaging in an unprecedented process, which began with the signing of the National Peace Accord in September 1991 and extended through elections in April 1994 and the establishment of a government of national unity under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. A detailed description of the National Peace Accord is available here.

The Peace Accord was signed by parties that had been locked in combat for a generation: the white majority government and National Party on the one side, and the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party, on the other. It engaged the entire country in the search for nonviolent conflict management in a process without any precedent on a national level. Their experience proves that a revolution can be carried out through nonviolent means.

The following rules and institutions were established by the Accord:

* Code of conduct for political parties and organizations: This committed them to principles of democratic tolerance, open communication, co-operation with law enforcement officers, and the refraining from violence or threats of violence.

* Code of conduct for South African police: This committed them to neutrality, non-discrimination and minimum use of violence and provided procedures to investigate and adjudicate violations.

* Commission of Inquiry regarding the prevention of Violence. This Commission which became known by the name of its chairman, the respected judge Richard Goldstone, was empowered to investigate the causes of violence and propose steps to prevent further violence. Its impartiality and its effectiveness were essential to giving people the feeling that the peace process was accompanied by justice.

* The National Peace Committee. This committee, which was charged to supervise the implementation of the Accord, was composed of one representative and one alternate from each signatory to the Accord.

* National Peace Secretariat. A broad set of regional and local peace committees were established throughout the country, uniting representatives from political organizations, trade unions, business, churches, police and security forces to resolve disputes at local and regional levels. This was the part of the Accord which directly engaged people on a grass roots level throughout the country.

The work of the regional and local peace committees was at the heart of the Accord. It directly engaged people in conflict management on a grass roots level throughout the country. At their peak, there were 11 regional committees and over one hundred local peace committees, with an annual budget of almost $12 million which enabled the hiring of full time staff for regional offices.

Much of the work especially at local level was conducted on a volunteer basis. All peace monitors in the field were volunteers. Approximately 15,000 peace monitors were trained across the country,

As described in the detailed source, "the peace committees comprised as complete a cross-section of the community as possible -- stakeholders who had "never faced each other across the negotiating table before" came together to attempt to resolve disputes. They provided neutral territory on which opposing parties could meet. In violence-ridden areas, it often took months of negotiation just to bring these stakeholders to the table. Once they began talking, facilitators attempted to help them identify the key issues underlying the conflict and then to find common ground. A structured approach and adherence to meeting procedures was a key factor in managing these discussions and keeping them on track. All the inputs were recorded in writing. Solutions were then sought and the resources required were identified. Once one problem was resolved or violence avoided, the peace committees continued to maintain their presence and role so as to be available for the next issue. They also built an understanding of some ground rules for political action which played an important role in the 1994 elections when Nelson Mandela was elected President."

Although the peace committees were disbanded, in part because of lack of international support, in its next phase the Peace Process launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

As described in the Foreword by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu who was its chairman, the TRC played a major role in establishing a peaceful transition to democracy: "We are also deeply grateful to the thousands of South Africans who came to the Commission to tell us their stories. They have won our country the admiration of the world: wherever one goes, South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy, culminating in the Truth and Reconciliation process, is spoken of almost in reverent tones, as a phenomenon that is unique in the annals of history, one to be commended as a new way of living for humankind. Other countries have had truth commissions, and many more are following our example, but ours is regarded as the most ambitious, a kind of benchmark against which the rest are measured."

The South African experience serves as a model to revolutionary movements for the 21st Century, as Tutu remarks: "When we look around us at some of the conflict areas of the world, it becomes increasingly clear that there is not much of a future for them without forgiveness, without reconciliation. God has blessed us richly so that we might be a blessing to others. Quite improbably, we as South Africans have become a beacon of hope to others locked in deadly conflict that peace, that a just resolution, is possible. If it could happen in South Africa, then it can certainly happen anywhere else."

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Discussion Board Forum on South Africa:

discussion board


Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

- - -

More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ecology in Cuba

On Religion

Human Rights in South Africa

on Nonviolence

on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines