Between January 1987 and June 1989 some 1400 people were killed in incidents of politically-motivated violence in an area of 374 square kilometres around Pietermaritzburg in the Natal Midlands in South Africa1 • In the same area an estimated 1000 houses were destroyed, some 10,000 people moved house permanently, and another 10 to 15 thousand had to flee their homes for some part of the period in question. The South African State, represented by Cabinet Ministers and South African Police (SAP) spokesmen in particular, made consistent efforts to downplay the conflict until it suddenly became an excuse for not lifting the State of Emergency. Despite the denials, it was all too clear that a major political conflict of mounting intensity, amounting in effect to a civil war, was raging in the Natal Midlands, despite the draconian measures for the suppression of political dissent embodied in the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Regulations. The consequences for the several hundred thousand black inhabitants of the area were devastating.
Brown, David Maughan, 'An Unfinished Mourning': Echo Poems from Pietermaritzburg, Kunapipi, 13(1), 1991.