High-ranking South African party official assassinated

Killing heightens fears of new political violence

January 24, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A high-level official of South Africa's new multiracial political party, the United Democratic Movement, was riddled with bullets yesterday as he left a grocery store near his home in a rural area about an hour's drive north of Durban.

With the campaign for South Africa's second national elections just gearing up, the killing of the official, Sifiso Nkabinde, again raises questions about whether political violence will return as the vote approaches.

Nkabinde was expelled by President Nelson Mandela's African National Congress party for allegedly spying on the party for the former apartheid government.

Last year he was accused of inciting political violence in his hometown of Richmond and stood trial on 16 murder charges. He was acquitted.

Since then, Nkabinde had been elected secretary-general of the UDM, a party launched by two prominent politicians, one black and one white, in the hopes of developing support across racial lines.

While the party was initially dismissed as a curiosity, polls have shown that it has growing support and that this backing -- between 5 percent and 7 percent -- is coming from both blacks and whites.

But violence has always surrounded Nkabinde. After he was expelled from the ANC, a turf battle developed around him in Richmond. Dozens of people died in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat exchange between ANC supporters and those that stayed loyal to Nkabinde.

With national elections expected this spring, political analysts had been concerned about the role Nkabinde might play at a time when violence in the KwaZulu-Natal province has been declining.

Mandela issued a statement Saturday saying that "the government would leave no stone unturned" in search of Nkabinde's killers.

Pub Date: 1/24/99

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