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Defiant Zulus prepare to march

The stage is set for a potentially bloody confrontation today between police and thousands of mostly Zulu supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party who will descend on Johannesburg this morning to commemorate the 1994 Shell House killings.

Tensions between Inkatha and the African National Congress (ANC) have reached boiling point over Inkatha's vow to defy a new law banning the carrying of traditional weapons - such as spears and knobkerries - in public. The law was passed last week as a step towards reducing violence between Inkatha, for which the carrying of spears is considered a symbol of Zulu manhood and an inalienable right, and its rivals in the ANC.

President Nelson Mandela said earlier this week that the government would not tolerate demonstrations that threatened peoples' lives and vowed that effective security measures would be taken today to prevent a repetition of the bloodbath that took place during the march two years ago.

Eight Zulu marchers were shot dead outside the ANC's Shell House headquarters on 28 March 1994. In total, more than 50 people were killed in and around Johannesburg during the march by Inkatha supporters through the city.

The rising tensions and fears of violence that might effect the stability of Mr Mandela's post-apartheid government yesterday hit the rand, which dropped against the dollar and the pound.

An Inkatha spokesman, Themba Khoza, claimed there was an ANC plot to provoke violence against Zulus. However, the ANC's deputy secretary-general, Cheryl Carolus, said the claims were "outrageous, ludicrous and provocative" and were only meant to promote fear and conflict.