Mandela, rival renew efforts to end violence

March 31, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Stunned by the wave of death and destruction sweeping through black townships across the country, South Africa's top two black leaders held an urgent meeting yesterday to look for new ways to stop the warfare among their followers.

After five hours of talks in the coastal city of Durban, black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela and Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi called on all South Africans to "pray and work actively for peace."

It was the second meeting in two months between the two powerful men, whose rival organizations have been linked to the bloody fighting that has claimed more than 5,000 lives over the past five years.

The talks took place amid renewed violence in Natal province, where Durban is located and where Mr. Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party is based. Police said 19 people were killed in a rural district of Natal Friday night, including six Inkatha supporters who were attacked with automatic rifles and hand grenades.

In Alexandra township in Johannesburg, where 15 blacks were killed during a funeral vigil Wednesday, police found three more bodies yesterday. More than 100 people have died in the past three weeks in Alexandra, the black township most recently engulfed in violence.

The persistent bloodletting has led political analysts and church leaders to decry the "culture of violence" they say has taken hold in South Africa after years of state repression and township resistance.

In an emotional sermon this week, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, "Something has gone desperately wrong in the black community. . . . We are becoming brutalized and almost anesthetized to accept what is totally unacceptable."

He said blacks had learned political intolerance from the rigid apartheid regime that ruled South Africa for decades, but added, "Ultimately, we must turn the spotlight on ourselves. We can't go on forever blaming apartheid."

Archbishop Tutu called on black political organizations to "put their houses in order," to instill discipline in their members, and to adopt a code of conduct to prevent political disputes from degenerating into bloodshed.

Analysts also have said the continued fighting shows a lack of discipline among black political groups, many of which have been banned by the government for years.

At yesterday's meeting in Durban, Mr. Mandela and Mr. Buthelezi said the violence was not simply a conflict between members of their two organizations. But they said they accepted some of the blame for failing to stop their supporters from fighting.

"The continuing violence is seen as an indictment of black leadership in the country," they said in a joint statement released after the meeting.

Mr. Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, canceled a two-week trip to West and North Africa to try to deal with the violence, which has persisted despite an agreement by the ANC and Inkatha Jan. 29 to work jointly toward peace and set up committees to resolve factional disputes.

Mr. Buthelezi told reporters that the latest meeting, initiated by Mr. Mandela, was an attempt to "strengthen what we committed ourselves to in January." But there were no new initiatives, and both men said there were still key differences between them.

In the past, the ANC accused Mr. Buthelezi of collaborating with the white-minority government by accepting an official position in the government, as head of the KwaZulu homeland. More recently, the ANC has charged that police were working with Mr. Buthelezi's followers to foment trouble in black townships and hurt the ANC's image.

The Zulu leader has accused the ANC of promoting violence over the years by supporting guerrilla warfare against the government.

The bitter disagreements prevented the two leaders from meeting each other for almost a year following Mr. Mandela's release from 27 years' imprisonment last year.

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