Inkatha threatens to boycott SA poll

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The Independent Online
THE Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said last night it would not take part in South Africa's first democratic elections on 27 April so long as the constitution adopted by parliament last month remained unaltered. In a statement after a meeting of its central committee, Inkatha said it would only reconsider if amendments were made to the constitution in line with proposals put forward by the right-wing Freedom Alliance, to which Inkatha belongs.

'The IFP endorses the decision of the leaders of the Alliance to reject the preconditions laid down by the South African government and the African National Congress (ANC) which must be met before they are prepared to further negotiate with the Alliance,' the statement said. 'The government and the ANC are fully aware of the constitutional demands of the IFP and the Alliance. The ball is in their court. We demand they now negotiate without any preconditions.'

But the Freedom Alliance, in which Inkatha and the white far right are the principal partners, is continuing negotiations behind the scenes with the government and the ANC, prompting political observers to suggest that the statement should not be taken as Inkatha's final word on electoral participation.

Significant elements within Inkatha believe the party should contest the elections and should not be in alliance with white racist parties. Party members have already started raising funds and planning for an electoral campaign. But Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha's leader, belongs to the hardline camp and so far his word has been law.

A special conference Inkatha is due to hold on 21 January is expected to address the question of participation in the elections. And the government and ANC might yet make sufficient concessions to persuade Inkatha to change heart.

Militating against that, however, were Chief Buthelezi's words yesterday to a group of US congressmen. Claiming that 75 per cent of the ANC's leaders are Communist Party members, he said that while Communism 'might no longer be a threat to the essential interests' of the US, it was of 'terrifying relevance to the people of this country'.