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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links