Inkatha-ANC fight produces an unusual leader

April 03, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

ULUNDI, South Africa -- If there is going to be a civil war in the Natal region of South Africa, then the 2,000 men leaving this camp packed into trucks and buses will probably be among its soldiers.

The men are returning to their Zulu communities throughout the KwaZulu homeland after four weeks of training. They have been whipped into shape with running and calisthenics. They have been taught to march and drill. They've been run through an obstacle course.

They can take apart and put together automatic and semiautomatic rifles while blindfolded. They can hit a torso-sized target with those rifles from 200 yards, 100 yards with a pistol.

They know the organization of an ambush. They know how to conduct a surveillance operation. And they have been taught how to run away.

'Stand and fight'

"Many of these people, their instinct is to stand and fight," said Philip Powell, the blue-eyed 30-year-old who runs this camp. The white man is an odd product of South Africa's most bizarre political side.

"One thing that is peculiar to Zulu military tradition is that you don't run away. If someone starts shooting at you, you attack him. You don't do what soldiers all over the world do, which is take cover, evaluate the threat and then respond. We have to teach them that."

They learn these skills at this KwaZulu government course for the "Five Rand Brigade," a name that came from Mangosuthu Buthelezi's plea for each citizen of KwaZulu to donate 5 rand (about $1.50) to underwrite the training. That levy is called "Umfelandawonye," Zulu for "all die together."

Though the camp may well be shut down under terms of the

state of emergency declared in Natal on Thursday, it has already turned out 5,000 graduates, more people than are in the KwaZulu police force.

KwaZulu is the part of Natal that is the homeland for Zulus. It is run by Mr. Buthelezi, whose Inkatha Freedom Party is boycotting South Africa's first all-race election April 26-28.

In an indication that the state of emergency in Natal won't end the political bloodshed, suspected Zulu nationalists attacked a church service yesterday, killing three people, including a 7-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. In all, 13 people were killed overnight in the first serious outbreak of violence since the South African government sent hundreds of soldiers into the province.

Police suspect the church attack was linked to the rivalry between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party. Police spokesman Col. Marzedt de Beer said the shooting near Estcourt, 120 miles north of Durban, occurred in an ANC stronghold that borders an Inkatha area.

Though KwaZulu was set up by the apartheid government to deny Zulus citizenship in South Africa, both Mr. Buthelezi and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini have made the homeland's continued autonomy synonymous with the independence of the Zulu nation, a call that stirs the emotions of many members of this proud tribe.

Since the confirmation of the election boycott in recent weeks, there has been a rise both in the violence in Natal and in the bellicosity of rhetoric from Mr. Buthelezi and other Inkatha officials. Training Zulus in military skills is one way of backing up that talk with action.

Mr. Powell, whose great-grandfather fought against these Zulus' ancestors in the British takeover of Zululand in 1879, said he first worked with Inkatha while in a conservative political organization in college.

He then served three years in the intelligence department of the South African police before becoming, in 1990, both the KwaZulu government and Inkatha Freedom Party representative in Pietermaritzburg. That is an area where battles with the ANC have been hard-fought over the past decade.

Violent inspiration

Being shot in both legs after an Inkatha rally in May 1992 inspired him to start this training.

"It drove home to me the helplessness that the victims of the violence feel," he said.

Mr. Powell emphasizes that all the training taught here in the rolling bush next to the Umfolozi Game Reserve is defensive. "They don't get firearms here to take home. We don't teach them how to go back and wage warfare," he said.

"We don't have the equipment, the money or the facilities to train them in combat level tactics. They are trained to protect the traditional structures of Zulu society, not to fight conventional military units in armored vehicles."

It is just such units that may well be moving into Natal and KwaZulu under the state of emergency proclaimed to control the violence and ensure free and fair elections.

The skills taught at the camp do seem to dovetail neatly with Mr. Powell's vision of the resistance Zulus will put up to a perceived ++ invasion.

"If you examine the history of warfare in the 20th century, you will see that conventional military forces have only once since World War II managed to win a war against community resistance. That was the British in Malaya."

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