Buthelezi has his wings clipped while airborne: Negotiating Council scraps KwaZulu 'repressive' laws

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The Independent Online
MANGOSUTHU Buthelezi, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party and Chief Minister of KwaZulu, was the victim of a partial coup while he was airborne yesterday morning on his way back from New York.

He retains his two portfolios but the power he exercises over the one-party KwaZulu 'homeland', known legally as a 'self-governing territory', is no longer absolute.

The multi-party Negotiating Council, the body drafting South Africa's new constitution, agreed yesterday that during the period up to the 27 April elections President F W de Klerk would be entitled 'to repeal, supplement or substitute any law . . . applying in the self-governing territories'.

The decision was taken without Chief Buthelezi's consent for in July he pulled out of the talks following the setting of the date for South Africa's first democratic elections.

The council - which has postponed the unveiling of the final constitution from today to Monday, with endorsement set for Wednesday, agreed also to scrap a number of what were described as 'repressive' KwaZulu laws, including:

The Code of Zulu Law prohibiting the spreading of 'any false report of a nature calculated to cause disquiet or anxiety affecting the government of KwaZulu or its acts'.

An act allowing the Chief Minister to banish any black person from the territory without giving him a chance to defend himself.

An act calling on chiefs to 'report the holding of any unauthorised meeting, or distribution of literature'.

Upon his arrival at Johannesburg's Jan Smuts airport yesterday afternoon, Chief Buthelezi addressed what was billed as a press conference but turned out to be more of a public dialogue.

His response to the first question, whether he might have done better to remain in South Africa at a time of such delicate negotiations, set the tone. 'That is propagandising . . . It's such hogwash I don't know what to say. The best game in town is demonising us; demonising Inkatha, KwaZulu and Buthelezi.'

To a journalist who asked him if he could spell out what he meant when he warned - as he routinely does - of civil war, he replied: 'I'm not going to play into your kind of hands. I know you very well.'

And to a similar question: 'No government can operate without you ladies and gentlemen of the press but when you assume the role of propagandists I really loathe that.'

For the 50 minutes the gathering lasted, he offered few direct answers to questions that were often repeated three or four times. On one occasion he did.

'Do you still believe you represent all the Zulus?' 'Does Mr de Klerk represent all the whites?' 'He doesn't claim to. Do you represent all the Zulus, as you claim to?' 'We never claimed to represent all the Zulus.'

This, at last, was news, Chief Buthelezi having always hitherto portrayed himself as the leader of 'the Zulu nation'. Otherwise he remained untypically evasive.

Could he say once and for all: was he in or out of the reform process? 'I'm not a prophet to say what is going to happen in human behaviour.'

He has insisted South Africa must become a federal republic. Mr de Klerk has declared the new constitution to be federal. Did he agree? 'One swallow doesn't make a summer.'

What did he think about the agreement in the Negotiating Council to repeal the KwaZulu laws? 'I don't know. I've just arrived.'

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