Nelson Mandela visited South Africa's seat of power, the Union Buildings, for four hours of talks with President F W de Klerk to try to come up with a formula to end the violence in Katlehong and Thokoza, the two bloodiest townships in the country.
After the meeting, in a vision of what may come after the April elections, the President of the African National Congress addressed reporters in an elegant courtyard outside the presidential office. Mr de Klerk, South Africa's likely vice- president in the post-electoral coalition government, stood one step behind him. Mr Mandela said 'very encouraging progress' had been made and Mr de Klerk, a picture of politeness, nodded. Each agreed, too, that the violence would not prevent South Africa's first democratic elections on 27 April. They were confident that new peace proposals they had discussed would enable the whole country to participate in a free and fair poll.
The two leaders had, however, reached a gentleman's agreement not to reveal what the proposals were. They are to meet again in a week and promised that, in due course, 'very strong action' would be taken.
Half an hour later, the multi-racial Transitional Executive Council (TEC) occupied a bank in Pretoria, an 18-floor building which will serve as the council's headquarters until the day before the elections.
The faces at the TEC's inaugural meeting in Pretoria were much the same as those who spent two years negotiating the new constitution at Johannesburg's World Trade Centre. Prominent among these were Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC Secretary-General who narrowly escaped injury in a shooting in Katlehong on Sunday, and Roelf Meyer, the Minister of Constitutional Development.
The aim of the TEC, South Africa's first experiment in power-sharing, is to work in conjunction with the government to pave the way for successful elections. Assisting the TEC, which is to meet twice a week, are seven sub-councils attending to, among other things, state finances, foreign affairs, intelligence and the security forces. There is also a management committee and an interim party liaison committee.
Unfortunately, proceedings were delayed yesterday by the failure of the building's only photocopying machine. The meeting started half an hour late and, after 30 minutes of procedural debate, was adjourned for a further 90 minutes. One issue on the agenda eventually addressed with some success was the township violence, the TEC having agreed to appoint a special task force to examine the situation in Katlehong and Thokoza, where 1,800 have died since May last year.
The thornier question of what to do about Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who rejects the jurisdiction of the TEC, was deferred until today. The Inkatha leader himself, however, jumped the gun yesterday to issue his now customary war warnings.
The issue at stake will test whether the TEC proves to be - as Chief Buthelezi hopes it will - a toothless tiger. At the first meetings of the TEC in Cape Town in December, an order was sent to the KwaZulu government, over which Inkatha rules unopposed, to disclose information about hit squads known to be operating within the KwaZulu police force. Chief Buthelezi, who counts Minister of Police among his many titles, refused and so far has not been persuaded to change his mind.
The TEC also ordered the South African Police (SAP) to take over the functions of the KwaZulu Police in KwaZulu areas where Inkatha is allegedly conducting a reign of terror against ANC supporters. But Mr de Klerk's Minister of Law and Order, Hernus Kriel, has taken no action yet. Today Mr Kriel is expected to appear before the TEC to explain himself.
Anticipating that Mr Kriel would do what he was told, the Inkatha leader said yesterday that entry by the SAP into KwaZulu without his agreement would be regarded as 'an invasion'. 'The KwaZulu government will therefore not hold itself responsible for the consequences which may ensue,' Chief Buthelezi said.