Fear and fury divide townships in the Zulu hills: Richard Dowden in Lindelane joins peace monitors seeing Inkatha and ANC clashes at first hand

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MR SHABALALA was in no mood for negotiation. He stands over six feet tall. His eyes are angry, he moves through a crowd like a man striding through grass. He speaks like a man who expects no reply. In South African shorthand, Thomas Mandla Shabalala is a warlord.

The fear and fury had been building all day. An angry crowd pressed the peace monitors up against their car and shouted at them. The heavily armed Internal Security Unit (ISU) police were beginning to step back towards their armoured cars, fingering their shotguns and machine-guns. They were trying to protect the peace monitors who had come into Lindelane, an Inkatha Freedom Party stronghold, to prevent civil war in the area. In the hot, dusty evening air the three white monitors, one a young German student and another a middle-aged South African woman, were sweating in their heavy bullet-proof vests. They looked frightened.

Suddenly a silver Mercedes with a 'Peace in our Land' sticker on its windscreen nosed into the crowd and out stepped Mr Shabalala and his bodyguard armed with a G3 heavy rifle. The crowd fell silent and parted as Mr Shabalala strode up to the peace monitors. 'You people are not wanted here,' he growled at them. 'My people hold no meetings, no rallies here so we don't need monitors. This is a peaceful area. You are not needed here. This is my area and you must have my permission to come in. Now go.'

The young Indian commander of the ISU unit tried to say something but Mr Shabalala turned on him and he fell silent. 'The only way there will be peace in this area is to chase those people away,' he said, gesturing to the houses across the valley.

Then he stepped back into his car and was gone. 'Those people' - the inhabitants of the hillside facing Mr Shabalala's fiefdom - are indeed being chased out. Nowhere better illustrates the battle that Inkatha is waging against the elections and the African National Congress than these neighbouring Zulu townships outside Durban; Lindelane and Section F of Ntuzuma.

Lindelane means the place of waiting and it was supposed to be a temporary reception area for people waiting for houses. It is a slum of mean houses of mud or cement blocks and tin roofs spread over a low hill. The people who live there are mostly unemployed or labour ers, their children swarm the streets all day. It is part of KwaZulu, Mr Shabalala rules it like an old-

fashioned chief and it is an Inkatha stronghold.

F section of Ntuzuma is on the shoulder of the neighbouring hill. It has brick houses surrounded by fences and neat gardens, its people have jobs, its children have shoes and go to school. It is a 'location' in South Africa proper and not part of the Zulu-administered KwaZulu. It is dominated by ANC posters. Such is the social division between the pro- and anti-election forces. In St Paul's Church, Ntuzuma, which faces Lindelane across the valley, Father Duncan Mackenzie does not read out the anniversaries at the end of Mass, he reads out this week's casualties and graphically describes how victims were shot. Fr Mackenzie, a wiry, silver-haired Scot, speaks in fluent amaZulu to his congregation packed into a garage that has been turned into a church. They were all turned out in their Sunday best and sang the stirring four-part hymns as if their lives depended on it.

During mass all was quiet but as the people streamed out into the bright sunshine a shot cracked the Sunday morning peace. Up on the hill above the church an Inkatha gang was watching the people leave. No one dares cross over from Lindelane to go to church any more, said Fr MacKenzie, because anyone coming to Ntuzuma is suspected of being an ANC member. For years Inkatha groups and criminal gangs have been pressing into this area like waves on a sea wall. It is beginning to crack.

The courtyard of the church is piled high with beds and wardrobes, bags and suitcases, the belongings of people who have fled their homes, chased out by Mr Shabalala's gangs. Every night about 100 people gather next to the church to be fed from a huge communal pot of food. Fr Mackenzie, standing by the church, points out Mr Shabalala's house on the opposite hillside. He blames Mr Shabalala for the attacks on Ntuzuma. 'He doesn't want an election and he will set up road-blocks to stop people voting. I have told everyone that

if they want peace here they should arrest him but they say, 'Where's

the evidence?' '

Just outside the church Samson Nxumalo, 47, is standing despondently by a pick-up truck loaded with household furniture. He is a furniture salesman, and his house is on the edge of the area. Raiders attacked it at midnight, dropping a hand-grenade through the bedroom window. There is a hole in the concrete floor and the walls are splattered with shrapnel holes. Mr Nxumalo had just enough time to reach the door before the grenade exploded. He was wounded in the back. The furniture looks as if it has been attacked by a mad axeman.

Mr Nxumalo had already sent his wife and three daughters away and only he and his two sons were in the house when it was attacked. He has moved to his brother-in-law's house nearby and is trying to make his house look inhabited because if he moves out the people from Lindelane will move in. The house next door, a small round white hut, is inhabited by Inkatha people. 'I was friendly with them but people can bluff you,' he said. 'I will not vote in the elections. None of the parties are innocent. The only way there will be peace is for the leaders to understand each other but when the leaders make speeches to attack each other, then there is fighting.'

Throughout the day gangs of youths glared at each other across the valley or engaged in 'poster battles'. One side would put up posters of Nelson Mandela, then a gang from the other side would race across, tear them down and put up posters of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader. A few shots were exchanged.

In the evening the tension mounted. Inkatha groups across the valley and up the hill began chanting and singing. ISU armoured cars stopped patrolling and took up positions either side of the valley.

The peace monitors decided to try to talk to the Inkatha side. I went with them and we were told that gunmen had attacked Lindelane on Saturday, shooting at random into the area and then the police had come in and used tear-gas. 'We are very angry,' said one man. 'The police is on the side of the ANC, we have seen it.' He also accused the peace monitors of working for the ANC.

That was when Mr Shabalala turned up, threw the peace monitors out and declared that peace would only come when the people across the valley were cleared out. I drove back to the church and, as I approached it, a young man was being carried to a car. He had just been shot in the stomach. Even as Mr Shabalala was speaking the Inkatha groups on the hilltop above the church swooped down, shooting as they came. As we leapt into the cars shots crackled across the valley.