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The Historical Significance of South Africa's Third Force

Stephen Ellis
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp. 261-299
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637528
Page Count: 39
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The Historical Significance of South Africa's Third Force
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Abstract

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 over a long period, and played a crucial role in determining the nature and outcome of constitutional negotiations in 1990-1994. The consequences of the tactics used by the Third Force, and the legacy of the war for South Africa in general, continue to have an important influence on politics and on society. Analysis of contemporary South Africa can benefit from consideration of the manner in which politics, military activity and crime became enmeshed during a long war.

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