Counterinsurgency’s impact on transitions from authoritarianism: the case of South Africa

Counterinsurgency’s impact on transitions from authoritarianism remains poorly understood and under-theorized. Using archival sources and interviews with ex-rebels, this paper examines the apartheid counterinsurgency programme’s hidden history. A programme of clandestine violence and intelligence operations orchestrated at the regime’s highest military and political echelons, it intensified during the 1990-1994 transitional period. This paper analyses its impacts on the State and its security sector during and after the negotiated transition. By marginalizing former rebels with high popular legitimacy, counterinsurgency compromised South Africa’s process of security sector reform, while helping to preserve entrenched criminal networks and racist tendencies within the police and army. This has perpetuated institutional illegitimacy and corruption, and weakened security sector responses to South Africa’s post-transition surge of violent crime, thereby undermining democratic consolidation. Apartheid counterinsurgency has also left lasting impacts at the social capital and participatory levels, contributing to the erosion of trust between civil society and the State. Bibliogr., note, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]

Title: Counterinsurgency’s impact on transitions from authoritarianism: the case of South Africa
Author: Douek, Daniel
Year: 2013
Periodical: Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies (ISSN 0258-9346)
Volume: 40
Issue: 2
Pages: 255-275
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
External link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02589346.2013.798459
Abstract: Counterinsurgency’s impact on transitions from authoritarianism remains poorly understood and under-theorized. Using archival sources and interviews with ex-rebels, this paper examines the apartheid counterinsurgency programme’s hidden history. A programme of clandestine violence and intelligence operations orchestrated at the regime’s highest military and political echelons, it intensified during the 1990-1994 transitional period. This paper analyses its impacts on the State and its security sector during and after the negotiated transition. By marginalizing former rebels with high popular legitimacy, counterinsurgency compromised South Africa’s process of security sector reform, while helping to preserve entrenched criminal networks and racist tendencies within the police and army. This has perpetuated institutional illegitimacy and corruption, and weakened security sector responses to South Africa’s post-transition surge of violent crime, thereby undermining democratic consolidation. Apartheid counterinsurgency has also left lasting impacts at the social capital and participatory levels, contributing to the erosion of trust between civil society and the State. Bibliogr., note, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]