October 1, 2002
The paradox that the overwhelming majority of the fatalities in the political violence during the Apartheid era and the transition to democracy in South Africa were blacks killed by other blacks has in some previous analyses been explained as the consequence of manipulation by the security agencies of the regime, the secretive so-called Third Force. The case of the conflict between the ANC and Inkatha, however, points up a crucial weakness in the manipulation explanation for civil violence in general, and ethnic conflict in particular, namely how come other actors would allow themselves to be manipulated into taking actions which they know will be very costly and risky? The conclusion of this study is that the manipulation strategy employed by the Third Force to some extent influenced the character of the war between the ANC and Inkatha, but did not cause that war. Instead, the actors rational pursuit of their own interests under conditions of uncertainty provides a better account for the escalating conflict.