Township rivals switch to war of words

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The Independent Online
LINDELANI - Four young black men grabbed three large posters of Nelson Mandela and sprinted up the hill across a no man's land that divides supporters of the African National Congress and Inkatha in this township near Durban, writes Karl Maier.

A crowd of Inkatha supporters started cheering, jeering and running through the maze of shacks as the youths approached. Several police officers armed with automatic rifles scrambled aboard their armoured vehicle to catch the young men before they met the crowd. 'This is a stupid idea,' screamed a white peace monitor.

The youngsters, with the Mandela posters held above their heads, arrived at the top of the hill just as the armoured cars skidded to a halt beside them. As the ANC activists hammered their posters to a shack and a lamppost, a police officer, of Indian extraction, explained to the Inkatha crowd that everyone had the right to put their posters anywhere. This was especially so since Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi had decided to end his boycott of South Africa's first all-race elections.

As the Inkatha youngsters watched their lair being violated by the ANC enemy, they warmed to the idea. 'So we can take three posters over to their side?' one demanded. The smiles on the faces of the ANC lads began to fade. The policeman thought for a moment, and said yes, well, that is right.

High and low through the maze of shacks the search was launched for some Inkatha Freedom Party posters. After a few minutes, the ANC youngsters were in retreat, pursued by a handful of Inkatha supporters, armed not as usual with AK-47 assault rifles, but with posters declaring: 'Make our country free'.

The police vehicles wheeled around and headed back down the hill to catch up with the poster-carrying youths before they reached the edge of ANC territory. The officers explained that fair was fair, and the Inkatha boys had the same right to put up their placards. As each Inkatha poster went up, an ANC chap would try to put one of Mr Mandela even higher on the lampposts.

'Two days ago they would have shot each other for doing this,' said the peace monitor.

JOHANNESBURG - A bomb ripped through a regional office of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission in the Orange Free State early yesterday, police said. The explosion caused 'substantial damage' to the Hoopstad offices of the state agency conducting the ballot, Reuter reports.