ANC and Inkatha call for free and fair polls: Party faithful rally to hear leaders urge tolerance

'Vote for President nelson Mandela] Vote for an African National Congress government]' With these words the ANC executive member and veteran revolutionary Ronnie Kasrils trumpeted yesterday the start of a novel phase in South African politics, an election campaign in which the whole population will participate.

No date has been set yet for voting but Mr Kasrils, confident they will take place within a year, went about his address at Katlehong township, south of Johannesburg, with the gusto of a seasoned candidate. He called on ANC supporters to go door to door in search of votes; derided the electoral pretensions of the ruling National Party, the Democratic Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party; and promised an ANC government would deliver new schools, clinics and jobs.

But, on a day when peace was also high on the agenda, he told a rally of 6,000 that the ANC should contribute its part to a free and fair poll. 'We must stress the need for tolerance. All parties - yes, even the National Party - must have the right to organise in the townships,' he said.

Just two miles away, in the neighbouring township of Vosloorus, Inkatha was holding a rally of its own, an altogether more boisterous affair presided over by the Inkatha leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Some 10,000 Inkatha supporters bused in from townships all around the Johannesburg area and as far afield as Natal province shared in an event that, had it not been for the forests of spears and clubs on display, could have passed for a Rio carnival. One man wearing a leopard-skin loin-cloth, plastic GI's helmet, Reebok shoes and nothing else volunteered, cheerfully drunk, a welcome piece of information. 'It's all right, man,' he said. 'We don't hurt whites.'

Amid the general mayhem, little attention was paid to Chief Buthelezi's one-hour speech, most of which was in English and, therefore, incomprehensible to 90 per cent of the Inkatha faithful. More for the benefit of the few journalists present than anyone else, he preached his customary message of peace. 'Let us show pity to our brothers and sisters who were senselessly brainwashed with the radicalism of the armed struggle,' he said. 'The IFP must act as saviour for South Africa. Our party alone has remained committed to democracy, in our words and actions.' And then he raised the cry, echoed by his followers in the front rows: 'We want peace] We want peace]'

Black journalists present noted that when he broke into Zulu the message suddenly became more militant, more aggressively anti-ANC and mocking of Nelson Mandela. One of these journalists was threatened with a beating by a senior Inkatha leader while Chief Buthelezi was still half-way through his speech and, after it, Inkatha supporters shot and wounded a local resident and looted a number of homes.

All in all, however, national and international peace monitors in attendance declared themselves to be satisfied with the day's events, the general feeling being that their convoys of white patrol cars had successfully neutralised the usually combustible cocktail generated when the ANC and the IFP, the army and the police come together.

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