Buthelezi fudges decision on poll participation: 'Final' attempt today to reach a peaceful settlement

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk phoned Mangosuthu Buthelezi at 3am yesterday, so concerned was he that, with the break of day, the Inkatha leader would conclusively announce his party's decision not to participate in South Africa's first democratic elections on 27 April.

Chief Buthelezi's answer should have reassured Mr de Klerk sufficiently to allow him a few hours of relatively untroubled sleep. It was the answer he gave Inkatha delegates yesterday afternoon at the end of a 'special general conference' called to decide whether to boycott the poll.

Inkatha would not contest the elections under the terms of the present constitution, Chief Buthelezi declared, but would continue to press for a solution in negotiations with the government and the African National Congress.

The reasons for Mr de Klerk's anxiety were twofold. First, on Saturday Chief Buthelezi had told the Inkatha conference, held at Ulundi, capital of his KwaZulu 'homeland', that the new constitution adopted last month was a recipe for his party's destruction and should, accordingly, be met with 'resistance'. Secondly, today Inkatha and its allies on the white right wing are due to meet the government and the ANC in what has been billed as a final attempt to arrive at a peaceful settlement.

The urgency of today's meeting is that Mr de Klerk is expected officially to ratify South Africa's April election date by midnight tonight. Once the date is promulgated in the government gazette, government officials said, no further possibility exists of amending the constitution until after the elections.

Chief Buthelezi is seeking essentially two amendments: he wants more power to be devolved to regional governments and for the election to be contested through two ballots, not one.

In the first case it is almost as if the Inkatha leader is pleading the ANC's cause, for all the polls indicate that the ANC will win the elections for at least seven of the nine new provincial governments, including the one in Inkatha's Natal-KwaZulu power-base.

On the second point Chief Buthelezi enjoys support beyond his right-wing constituency. The liberal Democratic Party and even the radical Pan-Africanist Congress agree that two ballots would be preferable to one. The point is that the elections will decide the composition both of the national and the provincial parliaments. The ANC and the government have reached the conclusion that the one-vote option written into the present constitutional rules would secure each a better result. The smaller parties surmise, not irrationally, that two votes would give them a better chance as a number of people might decide, in the manner of elections in the United States, to hedge their bets.

Whatever the merits of the arguments, a substantial number of Inkatha officials are known to disagree with their leader's rejectionist stance.

It is an open secret that a body of opinion within Inkatha holds to the view that failure to participate in the elections would mean political suicide for the party.

The separatist white far right, the Afrikaner Volksfront coalition, is also divided as to the wisdom of participating in the elections. But in this case it is their leader, General Constand Viljoen, who is sounding the moderate note.

At a Volksfront rally in Pretoria on Saturday the general, the South African Defence Force's overall chief in the early Eighties, floated the idea of participation, only to be met with a resounding chorus of boos from his audience, many of whom were members of Eugene Terre-Blanche's neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement.

The conference's final resolution was that if their demand for an independent Afrikaner homeland was rejected they would resort to civil war.

Today, under the banner of the Freedom Alliance, Volksfront negotiatiors will join their Inkatha partners in the talks with the government and the ANC. Chief Buthelezi said yesterday it would require 'almost a miracle' for the talks to succeed.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you have experience of B2B s...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Scotland's leading train...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game