the phenomenon of intra-community violence which reached its peak in the
early 1990’s in the KwaZulu Homeland in Natal where supporters of the African
National Congress (ANC) clashed violently with members of the Inkatha
Freedom Party (IFP).
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to throwing a rubber tire over a victim’s neck, dousing it with gasoline
and igniting it thus burning the victim to death. The burning of a
body was a sign of contempt for the victim and his/her deeds and no act
could convey a deeper sense of hatred and disrespect. It was also
used to make an example of the victim and deter others from similar
Necklacing originated in the Eastern Cape in 1985 when on March 23rd, the
police in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage shot and killed 21 people.
The angry residents retaliated by necklacing a staunch community counselor
and his three sons, believing they were police informers. Every
known home of an informer or policeman was attacked and burned and the
term ‘necklacing’ entered into the South African vocabulary.
This method of vigilantism distinguished the killing in South Africa from
other types of intra-community violence around the world.
Initially, necklacing was only used for collaborators or informers but
later political targets were also necklaced and burned.
Prior to the mid-1980’s, typical weapons in the townships included
stones, sticks, knives and petrol bombs; however, post mid-1980’s, hand
grenades and firearms became the weapons of choice. In addition,
tires and gasoline were readily available in the townships though
typically many of the victims were already dead before being burned.
Burning was also used by the police and security forces to cover up
killing, as in the famous cases of the Pebco Three and the Cradock
Four where burning was able to remove evidence of criminal murder and
The Policy of Apartheid or Separate Development in South Africa was
intended to keep each of the racial groups separate and in particular to
keep the black tribes from uniting in defense of their collective rights.
In effect it became a policy of divide and conquer. As the black
violence against the whites escalated in the 1980’s, the ruling Nationalist
Party formulated a covert policy to instigate and foment violence
between one black group and another in order to divert their attacks
against the whites and to prevent a united stand by blacks against whites.
The idea of a ‘third force’ was created under the Internal
Stability unit in 1991 and this group was chaired by the then Minister
of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok. The ‘third force’ was a
separate division of police specifically tasked with public order
policing. The focus of the strategy was to arm and train the Inkatha
Freedom Party (IFP) under Chief Buthelezi of KwaZulu (the
homeland of the Zulu tribe) to carry out vigilante attacks on the African
National Congress (ANC) and the United Democratic Front (UDF).
From 1990-1994 a total of 14,000 people died from political violence in
South Africa, according to the Human Rights Commission, Feb.1998.