Political killings in South Africa: The ultimate intimidation


This policy brief provides a summary of current information on the nature and extent of the problem of political killings in South Africa. The province of KwaZulu-Natal accounts for the overwhelming majority of these killings and in recent years these have been increasingly localised to specific areas, such as the Umtshezi (Estcourt) municipal area, Ulundi and KwaMashu.

Though Mpumalanga was also associated with these killings, there appear not to have been any in the province since early 2011. Whereas during the apartheid period political killings took place in a diversity of circumstances, they now tend to be targeted ‘assassinations’, though some also occur in other circumstances. Available information suggests that less than 10% of these killings have resulted in convictions. There is a need for in-depth research and a better understanding both of the obstacles to a more effective criminal justice response, as well as why the problem continues.

About the author

David Bruce is a Johannesburg-based independent researcher and writer working in the fields of policing, crime and violence. From 1996 to 2011 he worked at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR). He has a master’s degree in management (public and development management) from the School of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand (2000).

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