Zulu defiance of the constitutional settlement threatens to tear South Africa apart. It is a monster that the white National Party government helped create by arming and training Zulu fighters to undermine the African National Congress and by creating such spurious homelands as KwaZulu, giving power and a stake in perpetuating apartheid to black leaders there.
Most of the homelands are succumbing to the fact of their own fiction, and the certainty of being taken into one South Africa after the April 26-28 election. But the strongest of the homeland leaders, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, prime minister of KwaZulu and head of South Africa's Inkatha Freedom Party, is doggedly holding out against the election.
Mr. Buthelezi and his nephew, the traditional King Goodwill Zwelethini, are playing to Zulu cultural nationalism, and to Inkatha party bossism in rural KwaZulu and black townships of surrounding Natal province. The ANC is campaigning where it can, appealing to younger and urbanized Zulus.
Zulu leaders keep their options open while the election in Natal will be between those who vote, mostly for Nelson Mandela's ANC, and those who don't, who will be counted for Inkatha. King and prime minister can participate in national life afterward if election turnout is high, but claim a low turnout as a mandate for Zulu autonomy.
Many ANC leaders demand the white South African government take over KwaZulu, to impose the election, as it did Ciskei and Bophuthatswana. Resistance would be higher in KwaZulu. The ANC made its point with a political march Friday in the Natal city of Durban, which is surrounded by KwaZulu. Demonstrators, estimated at from 50,000 to 100,000, mostly Zulus, demanded the right to vote.
The response was a protest against the election Monday by an estimated 10,000 spear-bearing Zulus in Johannesburg, an ANC stronghold. Snipers and ANC guards fired as the crowd converged on ANC headquarters. At last count some 31 people were slain and hundreds wounded. Inkatha claimed not to have organized the march, hiding behind Zulu royalists, who claimed they had.
South Africa's white president, F. W. de Klerk and his expected black successor, Mr. Mandela, have negotiated with Mr. Buthelezi, failing to budge him from intransigence. South Africa's army and police, having done so much to arm Inkatha against ANC, must now act against Inkatha in behalf of ANC, if South Africa is going to come peacefully through its first multi-racial election. Mr. de Klerk is the Dr. Frankenstein who must contain the monster his party made.