ANC attempts to seize power, Buthelezi says

April 09, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A prominent black leader accused Nelson Mandela's political organization yesterday of trying to seize power and of taking actions that would lead to civil war in South Africa.

The verbal attack by Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi signaled the collapse of a 2-month-old peace accord between Mr. Mandela's African National Congress and Mr. Buthelezi's Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, the ANC's major black rival.

It also created another problem for South Africa's already-jeopardized peace process, which is supposed to result in an end to apartheid and the drafting of a new democratic constitution for this racially divided country.

Mr. Buthelezi accused the ANC of making a "totally destructive, ill-conceived" power grab by issuing a tough ultimatum to the government last weekend. He charged that the ultimatum was inspired by the ANC's "violent wing" because it wanted to create conditions under which it could seize power.

"Very simply put, the ANC has made what it knows to be totally impossible demands on the government which it knows will not be met," the Zulu leader said. "The action which the ANC has now taken must be seen as . . . a sudden jump to gain unassailable supremacy."

The ANC issued a list of demands in an open letter to President Frederik W. de Klerk, who has angrily denounced the black political organization. The ANC demanded that Mr. de Klerk dismiss the two government ministers in charge of the police and the army, dismantle all police counterintelligence units, prohibit the use of live ammunition by police on crowd-control duty, and prohibit the carrying of weapons at public gatherings.

Mr. Mandela and the ANC have charged that elements of the security forces have been fomenting trouble in black townships, which has resulted in thousands of deaths in recent years. Much of the fighting has been waged between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha. The deaths mounted at such an alarming rate that Mr. Mandela and Mr. Buthelezi recently held two highly publicized meetings aimed at encouraging peace between their backers.

The latest meeting, only last week, ended with the two leaders smiling and posing for photographers and issuing a joint appeal for peace. But the agreements reached at that meeting and a previous one Jan. 31 seemed to fall apart this week after the ANC's announcement.

"The driving forces in the ANC's military and violent wing have now pushed the ANC into a no-return position and have set the stage for the politics in which the ANC will now attempt to seize power," Mr. Buthelezi charged in a lengthy speech to the legislative assembly in the Zulu homeland of KwaZulu, where he is head of government.

He urged Mr. de Klerk's national government to find a solution to South Africa's political problems without the ANC, and he asked foreign governments to end their support for Mr. Mandela's group, which he said was intentionally trying to sabotage negotiations.

"The seriousness of the situation is such that I really must state that we may well be facing the necessity of going on with the politics of negotiation without the ANC," the Zulu leader said. "Negotiations must triumph with or without the ANC."

Since February 1990, when Mr. de Klerk lifted a 30-year ban on the ANC, the government and the black political organization have held a series of talks aimed at setting the stage for multiparty negotiations on a new constitution.

Observers had hoped that the process would move quickly this year, but the ANC has repeatedly charged the government with foot-dragging in meeting certain conditions, such as the release of political prisoners and the return of political exiles.

The government has accused the ANC of being disorganized and of making unfounded accusations to disguise its own internal problems.

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