Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Avoid S. Africa Chaos - Restrain Buthelezi

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Avoid S. Africa Chaos - Restrain Buthelezi

Article excerpt

VIOLENCE threatens to spoil South Africa's hard won transition to democracy and delay next year's elections. Unambiguous actions by the government and the new multiracial, multiparty Transitional Executive Council (TEC), including the deployment of military force in the troubled black townships, are essential. The government and the TEC need to discipline troublemakers, especially Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Some 9,000 South Africans, nearly all black, have been killed in the three years since Nelson Mandela's release from prison. Those killings, more than 100 a week, are due to vicious antagonism between the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress (ANC) in and around the cities of Natal and urban Johannesburg.

Inkatha is led by Chief Buthelezi, whose personal and party rivalry with Mr. Mandela and the ANC is at the heart of South Africa's internal conflict.

Buthelezi and the Zulus want either a major slice of the national political pie or autonomy in their home province of Natal. Their proximity to the violence has made Buthelezi and Inkatha more critical to the negotiating process than might have been expected of a regional party. But they have been denied hegemony in Natal and, if Buthelezi can no longer hope to play a significant political role nationally, he at least wants to dominate his home area.

Natal is the home base of Zulu-speakers, South Africa's largest ethnic group (9 million out of nearly 40 million). The Zulu also work as migrant laborers on and near the mines and industries surrounding Johannesburg.

A year ago Buthelezi and President Frederik de Klerk were informally aligned. At one point Mr. De Klerk's government helped fund Inkatha and some of its security forces may have supplied Inkatha with destructive arms. More recently, De Klerk realized that the enduring peace and prosperity of South Africa depended upon cutting a realistic deal with Mandela and the ANC.

At a personal and tactical level Buthelezi has always been a spoiler. De Klerk's white National Party collaborated with Inkatha on that basis, and with the hope of slowing down the pace of change in South Africa.

Now, however, the ANC and the National Party are partners (along with 23 other minor white and black political groups) in the TEC, which has been created to manage South Africa's transition from apartheid to majority rule. …

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