Accord in South Africa

February 01, 1991

Despite war in the Persian Gulf, in South Africa this week there was progress toward peace. After a day-long meeting on Tuesday, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi announced a major breakthrough toward ending a split that in recent years has turned violent and deadly. Since 1986, fighting between rival factions of South Africa's black community has claimed as many as 5,000 lives.

The meeting, the first between the two leaders in almost three decades, may not immediately end the vicious rivalry between the followers of the two men. But the cordial atmosphere of the meeting and the two men's acknowledgment that their differences had been fully addressed without acrimony are reasons to hope that the healing process has truly begun.

That process will not be easy. Violence creates bitterness and a thirst for revenge, and despite the proclamations of their leaders many black communities in South Africa will be suffering from the effects of brutality for years to come. Even so, at a time when peace seems out of reach in the Mideast, it is reassuring to know that the forces of reconciliation are at work in a land where, too often, peace of any kind has seemed hopelessly out of reach.

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