Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Brutal Province Shaken Up in Election ANC ADVANCES IN ZULU LAND

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Brutal Province Shaken Up in Election ANC ADVANCES IN ZULU LAND

Article excerpt

Local elections in South Africa's Zulu heartland have strengthened the strongholds of the rival parties that have been fighting for a decade. Political observers say this could either polarize the province or help embryonic peace initiatives.

Provisional results from the June 26 poll in KwaZulu-Natal Province released on July 1 show a comfortable win in rural areas by the Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Its rival African National Congress (ANC) swept the cities.

KwaZulu-Natal is the main blight in an otherwise smooth transition to black majority rule since the 1994 all-race elections. About 50 people die monthly in political violence and half-a-million are displaced. The province has some of South Africa's finest game parks, beaches, and ports, but violence has held back potential investment.

With the province split between the rural tribal base of Inkatha and the urban constituency of President Nelson Mandela's ANC, it is still unclear whether an improved climate exists to end the fighting between the two parties that has claimed 14,000 lives over the past decade. Zulus are South Africa's largest tribe.

The ANC, which dominates the national coalition government, is likely to be more conciliatory knowing that it now controls the purse strings of the industrial and highly-populated metropolitan areas, diplomats say.

But Inkatha may feel on the defensive, having miscalculated sorely its electoral strategy in the Zulu province. "It could go either way," said one Western diplomat. "I think much depends on how badly Inkatha sees the election vote. And some warlords may not like seeing their enemies in power in the next town."

Added Jenni Irish, of the Network of Independent Monitors based in Durban: "It is very confusing. On the one hand, both parties acknowledge that they can't obliterate each other, and the elections were a clear sign that both have support. But the elections have polarized support and the rural-urban divide."

What is clear is that Inkatha must do some serious rethinking if it wants to expand beyond its Zulu nationalist support base in the countryside. …

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