Managing Spoilers at the Bargaining Table: Inkatha and the Talks to End Apartheid, 1990-1994


In the talks to end apartheid in South Africa, 19 parties sat at the negotiating table.  At least 10 of the negotiators had armed wings, and almost all had demands that they were prepared to back up with violence.  One in particular possessed the ability to destabilize the country: Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.  To get him on board, negotiators employed a number of tactics, including splitting him from his backers, offering compromises and refusing to allow the momentum of the process to be slowed by his boycotts.  This memo examines the negotiators' efforts to manage Buthelezi's demands and draw him into a coalition, as well as the longer-term consequences of those moves. 

Daniel Scher drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town, South Africa, in February 2010. 

Associated Interview(s): Mangosuthu ButheleziMario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini, Peter Smith

South Africa
Focus Area(s)
Balancing the Central and Local
Critical Tasks
Diversity management
Country of Reform
South Africa
Case Studies
Daniel Scher