Buthelezi's future in the balance

THE future of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi hung in the balance yesterday after President F W de Klerk announced a state of emergency and ordered troops into Natal province and the KwaZulu 'homeland' to safeguard this month's general election.

Chief Buthelezi, KwaZulu's Chief Minister and head of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), called the state of emergency an invasion and repeated his call for postponement of the 26-28 April poll, South Africa's first all-race election. Mr de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC) leader, said that was out of the question.

The South African Defence Force (SADF), which is expected to begin full-scale deployment today, will relegate the South African police and the KwaZulu 'homeland' police to secondary roles. Mr Mandela said that the SADF would be 'in complete control': it was 'appreciated by almost all the sectors of the people, unlike the police force'.

While Mr de Klerk argued that the measure was not aimed at Chief Buthelezi or the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, Mr Mandela said it effectively closed down the KwaZulu police force, which is run by Chief Buthelezi, who is also Minister of Police.

But Mr Mandela discounted any notion that Chief Buthelezi would be removed as Chief Minister, saying it would 'serve no purpose to do so'. Both Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela said they hoped their planned meeting with Chief Buthelezi and King Goodwill would go ahead this week but neither sounded optimistic. Mr Mandela said: 'We remain committed to seeking a dialogue with King Zwelithini. We shall continue bilateral discussions with the IFP.'

Both Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela agreed tighter security alone could not solve the problem. 'You cannot run a country solely by force,' Mr Mandela said. He demanded, however, that KwaZulu policemen involved in hit-squads be disarmed and that IFP paramilitary training camps be closed.

Mr de Klerk said: 'This is not aimed at the KwaZulu government. It is not aimed at the Chief Minister, it is not aimed to have any effect on the position of the King.'

The central government would move against KwaZulu authorities only if it discovered maladministration or 'if that government does not co- operate in making free and fair elections possible'.

The ANC had been pressing Mr de Klerk to impose an emergency since 18 March, when King Goodwill declared his intention to proclaim a sovereign Zulu kingdom and backed Chief Buthelezi's poll boycott. Last month clashes between Inkatha and the ANC claimed at least 266 lives.

Since the last state of emergency was lifted in Natal in October 1990, an estimated 15,000 people have died in violence. Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela defended reimposition as the only way to save lives.

The South African Human Rights Commission suggested, however, that the clampdown had tainted the election. 'While we are in full agreement that strong measures are called for . . . to safeguard the integrity of the elections, nevertheless we believe that there are several steps available . . . without entering the arena of a state of emergency.'

Leading article, page 15

(Photograph omitted)