Newspaper Op-Ed

A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland

South Africa has a new leader; the current negotiators in the North feel like a spent force

Brandon Hamber
4 min readFeb 20, 2018


“South Africa flag” by S Martin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In a strange way the South Africa and Northern Ireland peace processes have always been linked. In the 1990s both were heralded as examples of how deep divisions could be overcome, and co-operation fostered between former enemies. Other connections were more direct, such as the former ANC lead negotiator and now new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the decommissioning processes as an inspector on behalf of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

Two decades later, however, both peace processes have lost their shine.

In Northern Ireland a lot has been achieved. For example, a stable powersharing arrangement was running for a number of years, there has been substantial police reform and a dramatic decrease in political deaths.

However, the powersharing government has been collapsed for over a year. Social division also remains. Some 90 per cent of social housing is still single-identity, according to the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations. Only 7 per cent of children go to integrated schools.

Although paramilitary activity has decreased, there were 30 bombing incidents last year. Assaults, mainly on young males, by paramilitary groups have continued at roughly consistent rates for the last 10 years.
Significant gains

For South Africa, redressing decades of racial inequality has been a priority. Significant gains have been made. For example, 93 per cent of South Africans now have access to potable water compared to 62 per cent in 1994. The ANC government has built three million homes, housing 16 million people.

However, a backlog of 2.5 million houses remains. The official unemployment rate stands at a staggering 26 per cent. On top of this, the former government led by Jacob Zuma was throughout beset with serious corruption allegations.

However, unlike Northern Ireland, which has now seen a breakdown in the negotiations to re-establish powersharing, South…



Brandon Hamber

Hume O'Neill Professor of Peace at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Medium is my popular writing space. Academic publications at