DURBIN, SOUTH AFRICA — DURBAN, South Africa -- Nelson Mandela and Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi embraced each other and issued a plea for peace yesterday, ending a bitter split that contributed to years of bloodletting and thousands of deaths among their followers.
Mr. Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, said the meeting was a major breakthrough in the political war between his organization and Mr. Buthelezi's Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party.
"We . . . call upon all our people as well as our allies to cease all attacks against one another with immediate effect and to promote the quest for peace within our communities," the two powerful black organizations said in a joint statement after a daylong meeting.
The reconciliation raised the prospect for peace in South Africa, where more than 5,000 people have died in political violence since 1986, many in vicious hand-to-hand combat among followers of the two men.
It was the first time Mr. Mandela and Mr. Buthelezi, former allies in the fight against apartheid, had met face to face in 28 years. Their organizations split politically in 1979 over tactics to be used against South Africa's white-minority regime.
For years, Mr. Buthelezi criticized the ANC's tactics in the war against apartheid -- guerrilla warfare and international sanctions -- while ANC leaders branded the Zulu leader a sellout to the anti-apartheid cause and a stooge of the white-minority government. Mr. Buthelezi is head of government in the Zulu homeland of KwaZulu, set up by the South African government as part of a plan to separate black and white areas.
The political rivals also agreed to work to prevent violence by their supporters. They said they would hold additional meetings and set up monitoring groups to ensure that their new agreement is not violated.
The reconciliation of South Africa's two most prominent black political organizations could increase prospects for negotiations between anti-apartheid groups and the reform-minded government of President F. W. de Klerk.