The course and pattern of political violence in the Natal Midlands, 1987-1989 
John Aitchison

Occasional Publications imprint
The Natal Society Foundation.

Numbering the Dead is a seminal account of the violent civil conflict that broke out around the city of Pietermaritzburg in 1987 and what ensued over the next three years. Aitchison and his colleagues, based at the Centre for Adult Education, documented and dissected the ebb and flow and the changing circumstances of this not-so-low intensity civil war in the region.
They collected, computerised, and categorised literally thousands of instances of eyewitness or documentary evidence, and then applied an innovative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative approaches that uncovered the patterns and intimated the underlying causes.
This book, mainly covering the period 1987 to 1989, presents a distillation of this monitoring work, conducted under unimaginably difficult and stressful conditions.

It was originally done with the simple aim of stopping the killing by telling people in the province, in South Africa and the world what was happening, as accurately and truthfully as possible.

Professor John Aitchison was born in Durban and then studied at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg where he was active in the National Union of South African Students and in the Liberal Party. In his Honours year in 1965 he was restricted without trial under severe banning orders for five years and then again for another five years from 1971 to 1976. After teaching at the Federal Theological Seminary he joined the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg where for many years he headed the Centre for Adult Education. Later he was head of the School of Education Training and Development. He retired in 2007 and is an Emeritus Professor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He ran an Unrest Monitoring Project in the Centre for Adult Education from 1987 to 1994 and has played a significant role in national adult education policy development as well as in the development of school teacher upgrading programmes. He is known for his strong commitment to education and non-governmental organisation development in the Natal Midlands. He has been active in a number of human rights and rural development non-governmental organisations such as the Association for Rural Advancement (of which he was Director for a time).


Book details:

  The Natal Society Foundation
Publication date:
   25 April 2015
  Hard-cover with dust jacket, thread-sewn,
round back, with red and white head-bands
  274 pp, illustrated with tables, graphs, maps
  18 cm × 24.5 cm dee × 2 cm
Selling price:



Editor and index compiler:
  Christopher Merrett
Assistant editors:
  Peter Croeser and Phila Mfundo Msimang
Design and lay-out:
  Jo Marwick
Jo Marwick
Printed and bound by:
  Interpak Books, Pietermaritzburg


You can download the entire book free of charge here