Buthelezi threatens to boycott SA's first democratic election: Inkatha leader's demand comes as 12 more are murdered

MANGOSUTHU Buthelezi, warning of civil war 'or worse', said on Saturday that he would boycott South Africa's first democratic elections scheduled for 27 April next year.

For 12 of those trapped in the civil war already afflicting the black population south-east of Johannesburg - 400 have died since June - the issue is no longer of significance. Unknown gunmen yesterday opened fire on a gathering of people in the grounds of a factory, killing 12 - nine of them women - and wounding 20.

The manner of the killing was all too familiar, as were the conditions Chief Buthelezi imposed for his return to the multi-party talks debating a political settlement. The Inkatha Freedom Party leader said he would only participate if the government, the African National Congress and the other 17 political organisations which agree on 27 April - and which represent 80 per cent of the South African population - bowed to his will and changed the rules for the election.

'There is no way that . . . as president of Inkatha I am prepared to fight elections over who is going to write the constitution,' Chief Buthelezi said. 'I am just not prepared to do that because it is a disaster for our country.' Government and ANC officials say privately, for they dare not antagonise the sensitive Zulu chief in public, that 'disaster' in his lexicon means an election result that diminishes his power.

At Johannesburg's World Trade Centre, where multi-party talks have been going on all year to pave the way to democracy, one question looms large: 'What to do about Inkatha?'

Since Inkatha walked out of the talks two months ago this has also been the question uppermost in the minds of British, US and other diplomats united in their anxiety to see a peaceful, democratic and stable outcome in South Africa. The US ambassador, for example, is said to have been particularly forthright in recent encounters with Chief Buthelezi. Which is what prompted the chief, a welcome guest at the White House in the Eighties, to do the previously unthinkable and attack the US during a speech in Durban two weeks ago.

'The proposals at the World Trade Centre that the US wants me to accept are proposals that will thrust this country into civil war,' he said. 'I get the impression that the US is actually backing a Mandela victory because the US wants a settlement tomorrow, and it is a case of wanting a settlement at any price.'

As most Western diplomats will readily affirm, the chief is holding democracy in South Africa to ransom. It is common cause, as an analysis of the negotiations in yesterday's Johannesburg Star concluded, that whereas the government and the ANC have each made huge concessions to secure a peaceful political settlement, Inkatha has made none.

What does Chief Buthelezi want? He says he wants the constitution to be written and ratified not by an elected body, but by the forum currently engaged in talks. He wants the forum, besides, to set in stone a federal constitution granting a new 'Kwa-Natal' province a degree of autonomy tantamount to secession. He went a step further on Thursday when he declared that what he really sought was a federation of ethnic states - something virtually identical to the confederal neo-apartheid option of those in the far right calling for an independent Afrikaner state.

Such was the dismay this proposal caused that one of Chief Buthelezi's most devoted friends in the government, the National Party's Natal leader, George Bartlett, broke all precedent and openly criticised him the next day. This leads to the great question: why doesn't the government simply ignore the chief and proceed towards elections without him?

One reason is that the likes of Mr Bartlett in the cabinet have thus far remained obstinately attached to the idea of fighting an election against the ANC in alliance with Inkatha. For President F W de Klerk, who views Chief Buthelezi with almost as much distaste as Mr Mandela, to sever ties with Inkatha would be to risk the break-up of his party.

A more compelling reason, shared by the ANC and the government, is that if Chief Buthelezi does boycott elections - or rejects the result - the possibility exists that Inkatha will join forces with the far right and make good on his promise of civil war. Mr de Klerk's and Mr Mandela's uncertainty as to where the police and army would stand in such an eventuality only reinforces the chief's hand.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn