Chief Buthelezi and Boers begin to feel the squeeze

THE Inkatha leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, told a meeting of his supporters that the African National Congress and the government had 'our balls in their court'. The Freudian slip appeared to indicate that intense pressure from South Africa's two major political players for Inkatha to take part in the April elections was beginning to achieve its desired effect. The Zulu chief was feeling the squeeze.

And the time had come to squeeze back. Inkatha, he said, should consider ending negotiations with the ANC and the government in favour of 'opposition politics'. He did not spell out what he meant by this but he did make it clear that all the jaw-jaw in the six months since Inkatha pulled out of constitutional negotiations was making him heartily sick.

Chief Buthelezi's confrere in the right-wing Freedom Alliance, Constand Viljoen, has been expressing similar sentiments this week. No less confusingly, but with more delicacy, the erstwhile supremo of the South African Defence Force declared on Tuesday: 'As far as I am concerned the end of the road has been reached as far as negotiations are concerned.'

What did this mean? Was it war at last? The Freedom Alliance, he replied, had made no definite plans to disrupt the elections but it was becoming increasingly difficult to control his supporters.

One of these is the Reverend Mossie van den Berg, a Dutch Reformed Church clergyman who chairs the management committee of Radio Pretoria. The right-wing rebel station, which broadcasts Afrikaans folk songs and features stirring readings of Boer legends, had its licence revoked by the government on Tuesday. Mr van den Berg called on listeners yesterday to be ready to assist in the struggle against what he called 'the forces of darkness'. The station would continue to broadcast, as indeed it did illegally yesterday, and any attempt to deny Afrikaners their legitimate rights would be met with force. The government has heeded the warning and done nothing.

In the unlikely event that troops should be sent in, they will have to find a way to negotiate the impressive defences erected by armed station loyalists.

Armed with these and other instruments of war, the Afrikaner Volksfront warned yesterday that it was high time the ANC and the government stopped its 'Boer-bashing campaign'. Armed with the support of 80 per cent of the population, the response of President F W de Klerk, himself a Boer, and Nelson Mandela has been to shrug and wait patiently for talks with the Freedom Alliance to resume.