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With this watershed event, the process of dismantling apartheid became irreversible. Both the ANC and Inkatha became officially recognized political parties engaged in the struggle for control of the state.

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Clashes between their supporters gripped the KwaZulu-Natal region and the townships surrounding Johannesburg. Despite calls by all sides for an end to the bloodshed, it persisted until national elections established a multiracial democracy in April Economic problems complicated the pre-election period.

The South African economy stagnated in the late s and early s, debilitated by economic sanctions, low commodity prices, labor unrest, rural-urban migration, and wars in Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique.

Annual real growth dropped from 3. According to the best available estimates, more than one in three workers had no formal job, and half the unemployed did not even have unofficial work in the subsistence economy. The ANC won a majority but was constitutionally obligated to form a Government of National Unity from all parties winning twenty or more seats. Initially, the international and domestic business communities were concerned that the RDP was an inflationary social-spending program intended to rectify the years of apartheid injustices. Instead, the Mandela government put into place austere measures aimed at promoting both foreign and domestic investment.

After years of near zero growth, the economy grew at a rate of 6. Many commentators believe that the liberalization of markets and strict fiscal discipline are quickly addressing the development priorities of South Africa. However, the social and ecological legacies of apartheid will continue to affect the ability of both state and society to meet the goals of the RDP. The context specific to each case determines the precise relationship between environmental scarcity and outbreaks of violent conflict. Contextual factors also include the balance of political power, patterns of interaction, and the structure of economic relations among social groups.

These factors affect how resources will be used, the social impact of environmental scarcities, the grievances arising from these scarcities, and whether grievances will contribute to violence. The particular relationship between state and society is crucially important to the character of the links between environmental scarcity and violence. Degradation and depletion of agricultural land, forests, water, and fish stocks threaten many societies around the world. However, in this study we examine not only the degradation and depletion of these resources but, more generally, their scarcity.

There are three types of environmental scarcity: 1 supply-induced scarcity is caused by the degradation and depletion of an environmental resource, for example, the erosion of cropland; 2 demand-induced scarcity results from population growth within a region or increased per capita consumption of a resource, either of which increase the demand for the resource; 3 structural scarcity arises from an unequal social distribution of a resource that concentrates it in the hands of relatively few people while the remaining population suffers from serious shortages.

These three types of scarcity often occur simultaneously and interact. Two patterns of interaction are common: resource capture and ecological marginalization. Resource capture occurs when increased consumption of a resource combines with its degradation: powerful groups within society — anticipating future shortages — shift resource distribution in their favor, subjecting the remaining population to scarcity. Ecological marginalization occurs when increased consumption of a resource combines with structural inequalities in distribution: denied access to enough of the resource, weaker groups migrate to ecologically fragile regions that subsequently become degraded.

The three types of scarcity and their interactions produce several common social effects, including lower agricultural production, economic decline, migrations from zones of environmental scarcity, and weakened institutions. However, research shows that objective deprivation does not always produce strong grievances. People must perceive a relative decrease in their standard of living compared with other groups or compared with their aspirations, and they must see little chance of their aspirations being addressed under the status quo.

High levels of grievance do not necessarily lead to widespread civil violence. At least two other factors must be present: groups with strong collective identities that can coherently challenge state authority and clearly advantageous opportunities for violent collective action against authority. For grievances to produce civil strife, such as riots, rebellion, and insurgency, the aggrieved must see themselves as members of groups that can act together, and they must believe that the best opportunities to successfully address their grievances involve violence.

Most theorists of civil conflict assume that grievances, group identities, and opportunities for violent collective action are causally independent. The potential for group formation increases as people identify with one another due to their shared perception of grievance, and the meaning of group membership is influenced by the degree and character of the grievance.

In addition, more salient group identity influences the perception of opportunity for group action: it ensures that the costs of violent challenges to authority are distributed across many individuals, and it increases the probability that these challenges will succeed. Civil violence is a reflection of troubled relations between state and society. Changes in state character and declining state resources increase the chances of success of violent collective action by challenger groups, especially when these groups mobilize resources sufficient to shift the social balance of power in their favor.

Environmental scarcity threatens the delicate give-and-take relationship between state and society.


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Falling agricultural production, migrations to urban areas, and economic decline in regions severely affected by scarcity often produce hardship, and this hardship increases demands on the state. At the same time, scarcity can interfere with state revenue streams by reducing economic productivity and therefore taxes; it can also increase the power and activity of rent-seekers 13 , who become ever more able to deny tax revenues on their increased wealth and to influence state policy in their favor. Severe environmental scarcity causes groups to focus on narrow survival strategies, which reduces the interactions of civil society with the state.

Society segments into groups, social interactions among groups decrease, and each group turns inwards to focus on its own concerns. The legitimacy of the state declines, as it is no longer representative of or responsive to society. Opportunities for violent collective action can decrease, even under conditions of environmental scarcity, when the power of potential challenger groups is diffused by vigorous horizontal interaction within society and vertical interaction between civil society and the state.

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However, if poor socio-economic conditions persist, grievances will remain. These grievances will probably be expressed through an increase in deviant activity, such as crime. Unless the grievances are addressed, the legitimacy of the government will decrease, society will once again become segmented, and opportunities for violent collective action will correspondingly increase.

This paper analyzes environment-conflict linkages in South Africa as a whole. Moreover, we make specific reference to KwaZulu-Natal because it is one of the most populous and poverty striken provinces in South Africa, and since the mids, it has also been one of the most violent. First, the University of Natal has carefully conducted research on the causes of violence within the region and has developed a useful database on migration, growth of informal settlements, and violent deaths.

Rogers Brubaker - Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Second, because much of the black population in the region is Zulu, explanations of violence cannot be reduced to ethnicity. Intra-ethnic divisions — caused in part by the effects of environmental scarcity — produced levels of violence in the region akin to civil war. We outline below the environmental situation in South Africa in general, with particular attention to KwaZulu-Natal.

The South African ecosystem is characterized by low rainfall, water scarcity, and soils susceptible to erosion. Approximately 65 percent of the country receives less than millimeters mm of annual precipitation, a threshold that is widely regarded by experts as the minimum required for rain-fed cropping. After repeated cultivation, organic matter is rapidly lost and the soil is easily eroded. Plant cover is especially critical for controlling soil erosion: in one study in the Mflozi catchment in northern KwaZulu-Natal, only 2 percent of the land receiving to 1, mm of rain was eroded, compared with The reason for this curious differential was found to be the extensive plant cover within the former region.

Ethnic Conflict

Low rainfall and fragile soils limit agriculture potential. Only 16 percent about 16 million hectares of the total amount of land used for crops and pasture is considered suitable for crops, while the rest is used for pasture. About 4 percent is high-potential agricultural land. Of the total area of cropland, 13 million hectares fall within commercial farming areas, while only 2. The apartheid system institutionalized the uneven social distribution of environmental resources in South Africa, which caused serious structural scarcity for blacks.

With an average disposable income of only dollars a year — one-sixteenth the white average — homeland farmers in particular could not make the long-term investments necessary to protect their land. Table 1 uses differences in per capita availability of farmland to illustrate the structural land scarcities affecting blacks in South Africa.

Not only did blacks suffer from an imbalanced distribution of the quantity of land, but they also often received the most marginally productive land.

Moreover, under the apartheid regime, structural scarcities of land were often reinforced by stark shortfalls in agricultural inputs, such as capital, fertilizer, veterinary services, and new agricultural technologies. Tables 2 and 3 compare statistics for crop yields and cattle performance in Natal and KwaZulu. Structural scarcities of land also existed within the former homelands.

Ethnic Conflict Management in Africa: A Comparative Case Study of Nigeria and South Africa

Rights to communal land were unevenly distributed among homeland populations: up to 80 percent of production came from 20 percent of the farmers who controlled most of the land, and in some areas three or four landholders owned 80 percent of the livestock grazing on communal land.

Widespread landlessness existed even in Transkei, the homeland with the best land, where fewer than 50 percent of villagers were allocated a field, and 60 percent had no cattle. They were often overcrowded, short of housing, and located downwind from dirty industries. Infrastructure was inferior, with few services such as electricity and running water. In sum, the black population, with little political or economic power in South Africa, was forced to subsist on a severely restricted and eroded land base.

Because of the particular vulnerabilities of the South African ecosystem, this structural scarcity interacted with and exacerbated demand- and supply-induced scarcities. The estimated population of South Africa in is About 28 million people — over 66 percent of the population — live within towns and cities, while 15 million reside strictly within urban areas. Conversely, the white population will stay constant at approximately 5 million, and its proportion of the total population will drop from The growth of the black population results in more severe scarcity of land and exacerbates the differentials in land availability per capita shown in Table 1.

When labor requirements in commercial agriculture declined, apartheid ensured that black South Africans could not move to cities when they were expelled from rural white areas. Police forcibly moved blacks to the homelands; partly as a result of this forced migration, the population of the homelands grew from 4.

In addition to this in-migration, the homelands experienced high natural population growth rates. The total fertility rate for blacks from to was estimated at 5. Priya Deshingkar, a researcher for the Land and Agriculture Policy Centre in Johannesburg, describes the responsibilities of women in informal settlements and rural regions: As opposed to men, the lives of a majority of women in rural and peri-urban areas of South Africa are linked intimately with their natural environment in the course of their daily activities.


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Women are responsible for providing food, water and fuel survival tasks ; preparing food and caring for children household tasks and income generating activities such as trading of forest products. At the same time they are poor and face many legal and cultural obstacles which deny them the rights to own and control natural resources.


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