udge Richard Goldstone is a man well acquainted with the forces of violence in South Africa. As chairman of the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry into Public Violence and Intimidation - a judicial panel spawned by a multiparty peace accord in 1991 - he has developed a finely tuned understanding of the social, political and economic dynamics fuelling conflict in the country. Since its inception in 1991, the Goldstone Commission has held open inquiries into every major area of pubiC violence in South Africa and made countless recommendations on methods to control it. With the noticeable downtrend in politically related bloodletting since South Africa's democratic transition in April, the Goldstone Commission's work is tailing off and the judge is heading to The Hague to become chief prosecutor of a UN tribunal on crimes against humanity in Bosnia. Helen Grange spoke to Goldstone about his perceptions of violence in South Africa and the likely path ahead.
There has been much emphasis on political violence in South Africa, but to what extent has it been driven by economic factors and what will future trends be? The figures speak for themselves. Eighty eight per cent of the violence over the past four years has been economically or non-politically driven. Political violence has accounted for about 12 per cent. In the post election period, political violence has dropped very significantly. I don't think political violence is going to be a serious factor anymore. However, in common with many countries, we've got a lot of work to do in dealing with the root causes of violence caused by economic considerations. What are the causes of non-political violence?
Unemployment and unsatisfactory living conditions, but also, there is a lot of criminal violence such as hijackings and bank robberies. I don't believe these criminalshave starving children. Given this reality, however, the percentage of people who resort to criminal violence is small.There's only one way to stop criminal conduct of-any kind and that's through good policing, and 1 have no doubt that is going to improve considerably over the short to medium term with an acceptable, legitimate police force.
How long will it take for the new police force to accomplish real legitimacy? It's a lot easier for the police to handle Jaw enforcement now than it was before the election. The great majority of South Africans are going to have more and more confidence in the legitimacy
and acceptability of the police and it will become more difficult for people to operate outside of the police as selfappointed law enforcement agencies.
Regarding ANC-aligned self defence units which were formed to protect township communities against covert police action in the old South Africa: is there potential for them to form gangs and become organised criminals? The continued existence of self defence units is a specific society problem in the areas east of Johannesburg. It shouldn't be blown up into a national illness. I see these areas improving, not getting worse, because the fundamental causes prompting the formation of the self defence units have been removed and it will become more difficult to operate outside of the police force.
Published on Jun 18, 2011