Letter: UN supervision for South Africa

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The Independent Online
Sir: You are right to say in your leading article 'Good riddance to apartheid' (18 November) that a degree of optimism about South Africa is surely to order. There will also be a wide agreement for your view that next April's election may prove a rough affair, with an uncomfortably high level of intimidation and other malpractices. I visited South Africa with the International Commission of Jurists in October to assess the prospects for free and fair elections. Having been to most of the tensest areas, we concluded that acceptable elections could be held next April, but that much needs to be done and South Africa needs help from the international community.

The most important questions are: will it be safe to vote, and will people believe that this is so? If these questions are to be answered in the affirmative, it is essential that the KwaZulu police, which is Inkatha's private army, and the Internal Stability Unit, which is widely feared, play no part in policing the elections. This is a task that will have to be undertaken by the South African police. Unhappily, they are still widely distrusted.

We therefore believe that the international community should provide a monitor, in a UN helmet, at every polling station to keep order, and to play the role that British policemen played, so successfully, in Zimbabwe's first elections. We believe, too, that experienced police advisers, from the rest of the world, should be made available at police headquarters and at every police station that is involved in the election. We think the international community should also offer to provide a reserve peace-keeping force of four to five battalions to be at the disposal of the Electoral Commission, which will be responsible for the conduct of the election.

The international help should be co-ordinated by the United Nations. The prize of a democratic, free, prosperous South Africa is a great one. We were assured by ministers that help would be welcomed. The international community must not fail South Africa.

Yours faithfully,


Lincoln's Inn

London, WC2

19 November