JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- After months of difficult negotiations, South Africa's two main black political groups and the government agreed yesterday on a comprehensive peace plan designed to end black factional violence that has cost thousands of lives.
BTC But the violence continued yesterday: At least 15 people were killed in black townships around Johannesburg. And tensions rose even at the conference called to sign the pact, as supporters of one of the rival black groups, the Inkatha Freedom Party, staged a raucous mass demonstration, brandishing clubs, spears, shields and swords in defiance of the accord's ban on provocative public displays.
The pact is seen as an important test of the ability of the country's political movements to work together. Never before have the government and the two rival black groups, the African National Congress and Inkatha, reached an agreement.
Moreover, the three political groups are expected to be the principals in coming constitutional negotiations to dismantle apartheid and extend voting rights to South Africa's 30 million blacks.
But Nelson Mandela, the ANC leader, suggested the challenges ahead in bringing harmony to South African politics when he said yesterday that those signing the accord "were under no illusions that it was a magic wand." And President F. W. de Klerk said that it was but a "first step on the arduous road to peace."
Twenty other smaller anti-apartheid groups, including the South African Communist Party, also signed the pact.
In signing the accord, Inkatha, the ANC and the government agreed to end the use of violence and inflammatory language against opponents and to adhere to a new code of conduct for political parties and the security forces. The agreement also calls for special courts to deal with political violence.
Since the agreement is meant to prevent provocative public displays or actions, and specifically imposes a voluntary ban on the carrying of weapons to meetings, yesterday's demonstration Inkatha supporters outside the luxury downtown hotel where the accord was signed immediately called into question Inkatha's commitment to it.
Thousands of supporters of the Zulu-dominated movement and its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, chanted, sang and staged mock battles, to the obvious displeasure of heavily armed government soldiers in armored cars. The Zulus disregarded police requests to surrender their weapons.
At a news conference after the meeting yesterday, President de Klerk said the police had no reason to confiscate the weapons carried by Inkatha supporters unless there was an immediate threat of violence.
"The people outside the hotel, while they apparently enjoyed themselves, according to all the reports I received, at no stage posed a threat to anyone," Mr. de Klerk said.
But Mr. Mandela strongly disagreed with his assessment.
"If the people outside were members of the ANC, the police would have used force," Mr. Mandela said. "And if they had refused to move, the police would have used firearms."
Mr. Mandela implied that the factional fighting between supporters of Inkatha and the ANC was permitted and at times actively abetted by the government security services.
Inkatha supporters are often seen carrying traditional spears and fighting sticks, and the ANC has long insisted that all such weapons be prohibited at political rallies, which have been catalysts for subsequent violence.
Although Chief Buthelezi signed the accord yesterday, he earlier had effectively dismissed the peace plan as meaningless, saying in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday that he saw no reason why it would succeed where others had failed. He added that it would be simplistic to think the violence could be ended at a stroke.
The Pretoria government and the ANC reached a cease-fire in August 1990. Mr. Mandela and Mr. Buthelezi agreed to peace terms in January. But after both of those agreements, violence raged on.
Without Inkatha and Mr. Buthelezi actively involved in putting the new accord into effect, its success seems very much in doubt.
Although the ANC and Inkatha both oppose apartheid, Mr. Buthelezi has criticized the ANC's support of economic sanctions and armed struggle against the white minority government, although the ANC dropped the use of violence in August 1990 as it pursued talks with the government. Inkatha also professes greater commitment to a market economy than the ANC. The two organizations split in 1979 at a meeting of their leaders in London.
The government has admitted secretly providing funds to Inkatha and an allied labor organization, and some evidence has seemed to indicate that the security forces have aided pro-Inkatha militants in clashes with supporters of the ANC.
Yesterday's signing was boycotted by a group of white supremacists and some militant black groups.
Andries P. Treurnicht, leader of the white Conservative Party, said that his followers would never submit to "black domination." He predicted that whites would oust the de Klerk government.