ANC and Inkatha agree to fight fair

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NELSON MANDELA was not there. But history was made in this riven country yesterday when political enemies in a war which has claimed more than 10,000 Zulu lives shook hands on a bend in a township road.

Ten days before the second multi-race elections, militants from the African National Congress drove through a township controlled by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). In the run-up to the 1994 elections, when 10 people died each day in KwaZulu-Natal, Lindelani was a no-go area for the ANC.

The ANC convoy pulled up first in BMWs. In their midst was a jolly white pick-up, pasted with yellow, green and black posters, filled with enthusiastic youths waving ANC flags. The youths looked naive but in fact they were being brave. In Lindelani, a township north of Durban where 300,000 black people live, everyone votes for Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP. Why? Because Thomas Mandla Tshabalala, slum landlord and warlord, says so.

The warlord arrived next and stopped his caravan, decorated with IFP posters, on the opposite side of the road. Then his driver screeched to a halt in a white BMW from which poured a crew of women in IFP T-shirts.

What ensued was a kind of ululating contest, punctuated by the old struggle call, "amandla" (power), and "Shenge, Shenge" (Chief Buthelezi's tribal name). Five years ago, there would have been mass slaughter.

It is too soon to say that peace has broken out between South Africa's ruling party and the Zulu liberation movement whose manifesto combines Thatcherite policies with the defence of traditional chiefs' rights, and which was covertly armed by the apartheid state.

Yesterday in Nongoma, an IFP stronghold which is the home of the Zulu king, a petrol bomb was thrown at the home of an ANC-sympathising royal.

Last Friday, ANC militants had been jeered out of town - but not before putting up posters on lamp-posts all along the main street.

At a funeral yesterday near Durban, a member of the IFP was assaulted. On Saturday, Chief Buthelezi was locked out of a stadium south of Durban where he was to speak at a rally. Arms caches are still being found, including a seven-ton stash three weeks ago.

All are incidents which explain why 20,000 security forces have been deployed in KwaZulu-Natal in the run-up to the 2 June election.

The IFP's spokesman, the Rev Musa Zondi, said: "There are still many areas where the ANC will not let us campaign. Many people do not believe their vote is secret and many are still fearful, even if they do not quite know of what.

"But the atmosphere is better. Dr Buthelezi has appealed to our supporters to be calm and they are heeding his calls," said Mr Zondi, who added that the IFP's election funding - five million rand (pounds 500,000) - comes largely from parliament.

Previously the IFP, whose support in opinion polls has collapsed, received funding from the apartheid regime bent on sowing discord among the black population.

The party, which in 1994 got 50.3 per cent of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal against the ANC's 32.2 per cent, is expected to achieve no more than 20 per cent in this election.

Two weeks ago members of the parties signed a code of good electoral conduct in Durban and speakers for both, including Chief Buthelezi, who is Home Affairs Minister, have called for calm.

The ANC, meanwhile, has grabbed the moral high ground, sending campaigners out with just one message: "You are free to vote as you please." At the weekend the ruling party, which has formidable international funding and strong grass-roots in this province, spent 93,000 rand on a three- day airdrop of leaflets over IFP villages in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Some observers say the outcome of elections here is irrelevant to Chief Buthelezi, who has already been pacified with a promise of the position of "second deputy premier", which would be a new post in the cabinet of President Thabo Mbeki, chosen by the ANC to succeed Mr Mandela.

In Lindelani yesterday, onlookers were reserving judgement. Several said they still did not feel free to vote as they pleased. France Ngcobo, a 40-year-old construction supervisor, said: "Here, until now, it has only been IFP. The IFP is not finished but it has problems. The ANC has brought us electricity. But it did not bring jobs.

"I will not say how I will vote - it is my secret voice - but I am pleased the ANC came to see us."