State of emergency ordered by de Klerk

April 01, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Reacting to the growing violence threatening South Africa's first multiracial elections, President F. W. de Klerk announced a state of emergency and ordered the army into the riotous KwaZulu-Natal region yesterday.

A government spokesman, Richard Carter, said the deployment had begun last night.

The deployment is designed to ensure that people in the region will be able to vote despite the resistance of the area's primary political figure, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party. But it could lead to an even bloodier confrontation with warriors loyal to the Zulu nationalist.

Appealing for public calm, Mr. de Klerk said there was no political motive behind the crackdown and no plan to oust Mr. Buthelezi.

Mr. Buthelezi's "lawfully elected" KwaZulu government would remain if it cooperated, he said, and Inkatha would be free to mount a "democratic and peaceful opposition" to the vote. He pleaded for Mr. Buthelezi and his nephew, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini, to resume a dialogue with the government and the African National Congress.

Under the decree, political meetings will be allowed if authorities are notified, but soldiers will have the power to ban marches and rallies, detain suspects and seize weapons.

Nelson Mandela, president of the ANC, welcomed the declaration, saying its eventual provisions would require members of the KwaZulu police to stay in their barracks while two divisions of the South African military move in to maintain order.

In recent weeks, urban townships around Durban have been the scene of violent clashes between supporters of Inkatha and those of the ANC, a continuation of a low-level war that has been waging in rural areas for years. Violence in Natal also has skyrocketed: The province of 6.5 million people had 290 political killings in March, the highest monthly total in three years. Tensions deepened Monday when a march by 8,000 armed Zulus through downtown Johannesburg led to gunbattles that left at least 53 people dead.

Mr. Buthelezi and other Inkatha leaders immediately denounced the emergency declaration.

"I think my people will be very angry," said Mr. Buthelezi, who heads the government of KwaZulu, set up under apartheid as a home for all Zulus. "They will see this as an invasion."

Mr. Mandela, however, said the move had "one purpose . . . to stem the tide of violence that is engulfing us all."

This is only the fourth time that a state of emergency has been imposed in South Africa.

The first came in 1932, during gold mine strikes, the second in 1960 after police shot anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville and the third in 1985 during the ANC's campaign to make the black townships "ungovernable." The last two were strongly condemned and resisted by the ANC.

But now, in Mr. Mandela's view, the state of emergency is being used not to enforce apartheid laws, but to help wipe out their legacy by ensuring a free and fair election.

Many observers have said that holding such an election in the Natal region is impossible under current circumstances. It has been charged that Inkatha supporters have threatened to kill anyone who goes to the polls April 27-28.

The declaration gives the ANC and Mr. de Klerk a significant bargaining chip to use in next week's scheduled negotiations with Mr. Buthelezi and King Goodwill.

That strategy could backfire if the action leads to the cancellation of the meeting and prompts Inkatha to begin the type of constant resistance that characterized the ANC's anti-apartheid action during the 1985 state of emergency.

Speaking on state television last night, Mr. Buthelezi said further talks with the government on whether Inkatha would drop its election boycott were unlikely.

"What is being done is really comparable to someone holding a woman for someone to rape that woman. It amounts to that for us," he said.

Inkatha leaders sounded belligerent. "The declaration of the state of emergency means the start of civil war in South Africa," said Humphrey Ndlovo, a top Inkatha official in the Johannesburg area.

Mr. Buthelezi said it meant that "the struggle between Inkatha and the ANC is now a fight to the finish."

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