Buthelezi calls for peace but warns towns of civil war: ANC's armed wing must be disbanded, says Inkatha leader

MANGOSUTHU Buthelezi arrived in Thokoza township yesterday to deliver a message of peace to his supporters, but, in a further setback to democracy negotiations, he rejected a proposal by the ANC and the government to stop South Africa's township violence.

Chief Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), followed the route taken by Nelson Mandela last week, and also visited neighbouring Katlehong. Thokoza and Katlehong, south-east of Johannesburg, have witnessed more than 240 killings in the past two weeks.

The area was saturated yesterday with policemen and troops, on the ground and in the air.

Chief Buthelezi drove through the streets escorted by four police armoured vehicles and, above the convoy, two police helicopters.

Among a forest of sticks and spears, he spoke to 4,000 supporters at a car park securely sandwiched between the local single-men's hostel, an Inkatha stronghold, and the township police station. The police, always judiciously scarce during ANC rallies, mingled cheerfully with the crowd.

'As president of the IFP, I direct that every member and supporter of my party, the Inkatha Freedom Party, translates the letters I-F-P into the slogan 'I'm for peace'.'

The reason there was no peace, he explained, was the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), popularly known as MK, to whose evil activities the government was turning a blind eye.

One example of this sinister complicity between the ANC and the government was their recent proposal for all the country's armed formations to be combined in a national peace-keeping force. Another was the agreement for MK to be absorbed, once a democratic government is in place, into the South African Defence Force.

'I call again for the disbandment of MK, and I warn the South African government, and I warn the whole world at large, that the absorption of MK into the South African Defence Force, and the absorption of MK into a so-called multi-party peace-keeping force is a total prescription for disaster,' he said.

Then, speaking in Zulu, he said he would not return to negotiations until MK was disbanded. 'There can be no peace in South Africa if MK continues to exist.'

A selective reading of his speech, however, might convey the idea that, despite yet another warning of civil war, he was softening his hardline politics. 'My heart is breaking,' he said. 'Violence is wrong; it is evil.'

A local Inkatha leader who spoke after Chief Buthelezi found the warlike note in his leader's rhetoric more to his satisfaction. Never identified by name, he declared in Zulu: 'The dam can no longer hold the anger of the people. If it breaks (there) will be great bloodshed. The IFP believes that the idea of getting the country back by using a pen is outdated.'

On that both ANC and Inkatha supporters in Katlehong might have agreed. A dozen youths fled yesterday morning as a car carrying three other journalists and me approached a bridge near the local Inkatha hostel.

Reassured that we were reporters, one youth, named Koos, explained: 'We thought you were police. The police are the big problem here, not the army. You're walking on the street, they stop, force you to go inside their Casspir (armoured vehicle) and then they drop you off inside the hostel.' What happened there? 'They kill you.'

Two hundred yards down the road two shacks were burning. The women who lived there were trying to salvage their belongings. They were Inkatha supporters. 'It was the comrades across the road, in the ANC section. They came and burnt the houses this morning,' one woman said. Two police armoured vehicles stood by. Inside one sat three teenage boys.

A policemen, a white member of the riot unit, said the boys had been caught after a chase. 'One of them attacked me with an axe, bloody bastard]' he said. Half a dozen Inkatha men gathered around the armoured vehicle, hurling abuse at the three prisoners, none older than 16. 'You are small chickens. We can kill you any time we want.'

The three were a picture of terror. One stared through the thick glass, his face rigid, mouth and eyes wide open, teeth unnaturally bared, as if he had already died a horrible death. Through the door, just before a policeman intervened, another boy gave his version of what had happened. 'We were just walking down the road. We saw the police. We ran. They caught us. And now they say we burned these houses. We did not do it.' The boy was weeping.

(Photograph omitted)