The killings, in revenge for the deaths of eight Inkatha men outside the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters on Monday, brought the March death toll in Natal to 266, according to the Human Rights Commission.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's secretary-general, said it was clear Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party was 'determined to drown the country in blood'.
Mr Ramaphosa is a key figure in the Transitional Executive Council (TEC), which called on Tuesday night for a state of emergency to be declared in Natal and the homeland that lies within its borders, KwaZulu. President F W de Klerk, who met his cabinet yesterday, called an afternoon press conference at which it had been expected that he would give the government's stamp of approval to the proposal of the multi-party TEC. However the press conference was postponed at the last minute, and without explanation, until nine o'clock this morning.
The speculation in political circles last night was that Mr de Klerk simply did not know how best to deal with the growing belligerence of Chief Buthelezi and his nephew, the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, both of whom have called on their supporters to boycott the general elections due in four weeks.
On Tuesday Chief Buthelezi, leader of the only black party not taking part in the country's first democratic poll, warned of a 'final struggle to the finish between the ANC and the Zulu nation'.
The distinction would have mystified many Zulus, 70,000 of whom marched in Durban on Friday in support of the ANC. The conflict in Natal is not so much ethnic, the participants on both sides being being Zulus, as a struggle for power between ANC progressives and Inkatha conservatives.
The five young ANC men were lured to their deaths in KwaMashu, a large black township outside Durban. Inkatha officials had invited them to a migrant workers' hostel to talk peace.
Nine youths in all went to the meeting in the hope of defusing the violence in KwaMashu. According to survivors, upon arrival at the hostel they were met by three men in a mini-bus. They were dragged into a room at gun-point, kept there for two hours and then ordered to leave the room one by one, whereupon they were met by a hail of AK47 bullets. 'I came out and I ran. There was a big crowd of people with AK47s and I ran right through them,' one of the four survivors said. He added that an Inkatha Youth Brigade leader had told them earlier he was very angry about Monday's killings in Johannesburg.
The response of the ANC in Durban yesterday only increased fears that the violence in Natal will escalate during the run-up to the elections. Spokesman Dumisani Makhaya warned that ANC members would not take this latest attack lying down.
The ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, was in no mood yesterday to buckle to armed Inkatha pressure for the elections to be suspended pending agreement on Chief Buthelezi's confusing demand for the establishment of a 'Zulu kingdom'. In the same way that the white right have proved unable to explain what they visualise when they call for a separate Afrikaner state, so the government and the ANC - who between them command the support of 85 per cent of the population - have been unable to fathom what the Inkatha leader wants.
Under the new constitution agreed by the majority of South Africa's political parties, Natal will have an elected provincial parliament and the Zulu king will continue to be the king, with the same powers he has enjoyed for more than 20 years within the KwaZulu homeland, under the guidance of his uncle the chief minister.
Mr Mandela said yesterday he could only conclude that King Goodwill was labouring under 'a misunderstanding' as to his future status under an ANC government. The ANC president declared: 'An attempt to postpone the elections or drown them in blood cannot be countenanced.'
The only effective response, ANC officials were saying yesterday, would be to send in the army.