More troops deployed in S. African province

April 07, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

DURBAN, South Africa -- After one of the bloodiest weeks in this country's recent history, the military has deployed up to 850 more combat troops to violence-scarred Zulu townships of Natal Province to enforce a state of emergency, which, so far, has failed to curb bitter factional fighting.

Yesterday's reinforcements, drawn from infantry and light artillery reserve units in Natal, brings the total force here to about 2,000 troops. More forces will be deployed April 15 for about a month to cover the volatile province during the April 26-28 election and its aftermath, the military said.

"The situation is very tense," spokeswoman Capt. Kim Van Niekerk said in a telephone interview. At least 100 people have been reported killed in raging township wars since President Frederik W. de Klerk announced emergency rule last Thursday in the tribal Zulu homeland of KwaZulu and surrounding Natal Province.

The strife -- which usually takes the form of drive-by shootings, arson and massacres of unarmed civilians -- is part of the intensifying conflict between Zulu followers of Chief Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. The majority of victims this week have been in ANC strongholds.

The death toll has grown dramatically since Mr. Buthelezi pledged to boycott the democratic elections that his archrival, Mr. Mandela, is expected to win. ANC officials in Natal complain the emergency decree has failed to protect their supporters and to ensure a free election.

In a dramatic display of the problems the security forces face, dozens of police and soldiers backed by armored vehicles, helicopters and dogs, looked on as an estimated 10,000 anti-election Zulus defied emergency regulations and marched with their "traditional" weapons in Empangeni in northern Natal Tuesday.

Police said they had decided not to strip the Inkatha protesters of spears, fighting clubs, machetes and knives to avoid a confrontation. The march was peaceful.

Hopes that the fighting can be curbed to permit free balloting are now riding on a "peace summit" scheduled tomorrow among key players in the crisis -- Messrs. Mandela, Buthelezi, de Klerk and the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini.

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