Mandela visits Natal supporter slain Gunmen hit car of local ANC chief

March 13, 1993|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Nelson Mandela embarked on a peace mission to the strife-torn eastern province of Natal yesterday, but his trip was marred by an attack on supporters in one of the townships he was to visit.

One man was killed and another injured when gunmen opened fire on a car owned by Rasta Obed Maphanga, a local African National Congress leader in Ezakheni township, who was not in the car.

After the incident, the ANC canceled Mr. Mandela's visit to Ezakheni township.

"There have been problems in Ezakheni, and this shooting was just a way to ensure that Mr. Mandela would not go there," said Cassandra Gabriel, an ANC spokeswoman in Natal.

She said that the KwaZulu government, controlled by the ANC's bitter political rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party, had denied the ANC permission to use the local stadium and that Mr. Maphanga had been trying to find another site.

Natal province has been the most violent area of the country since 1990. More than 8,000 people have died in a low-grade civil war, mainly between Zulu supporters of the ANC and Zulu supporters of Inkatha.

The latest big flare-up began two weeks ago, when six children were killed in a hail of machine-gun fire as they rode to school in a minibus.

Three ANC supporters were arrested. Then, within days of the first attack, 10 people were slain when a minibus full of ANC supporters was ambushed on the way to court for the proceedings.

Since then, another minibus has been ambushed, and four more people have been killed.

Leaders of the ANC have charged that the attacks are aimed at sabotaging political negotiations trying to create a post-apartheid, democratic government for South Africa. The attack on the children came three days before the latest round of negotiations involving 26 black and white political parties and organizations.

Mr. Mandela began his trip by calling for an internal peace force to deal with the political violence. He told ANC supporters in Wendezi that South Africa's various security forces did not have the capacity to end the violence.

Mr. Mandela plans to spend three days traveling through the central region of Natal.

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