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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower