Mandela and de Klerk to hear Zulu price for peace: Today's summit will attempt to halt the election 'spoilers' in Natal, writes John Carlin in Johannesburg

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk and the ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, meet Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his uncle, King Goodwill Zwelithini, today to see if they can meet the two conservative Zulu leaders' price for a peaceful election in Natal/KwaZulu.

The question will be whether Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela can offer Chief Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader, and the Zulu king enough of a stake in the new political order to persuade them to call on their supporters to stop the terror campaign against Zulus who wish to vote in this month's elections.

The meeting will bring together the four leaders for the first time. It comes at the end of a week which has seen the death toll in Natal/KwaZulu exceed 120. The imposition of a state of emergency in the area a week ago has not reduced the killings - there were 300 in the whole of March - but it was only yesterday that the South African Defence Force started deploying troops in significant numbers around the more violent areas.

The hope of the government, the ANC and the smaller parties contesting the 27 April elections is that further army reinforcements expected in the coming days will help bring Natal/KwaZulu sufficiently under control to allow for acceptably free and fair elections.

One indication that the iron fist approach is having some effect was provided earlier this week by the decision of KwaZulu's one-party Inkatha government to shut down its paramilitary training camps. Had they not, the threat was there that the army - empowered by the emergency regulations - would have done it for them.

When the two most powerful commoners in South African politics sit down at the negotiating table this morning the first thing they will try to gauge is what exactly King Goodwill and his nephew, prime minister and prince of the Zulu royal house, really want.

Chief Buthelezi had initially demanded a federal system of government in Natal/KwaZulu so autonomous it would have amounted virtually to the province seceding from the rest of South Africa. When this failed he wrapped himself in the flag of Zulu nationalism, resurrected King Goodwill after two decades in the political wilderness and, through the king, issued a call for the transformation of Natal/KwaZulu into an independent Zulu kingdom. What will emerge today is whether these have been bottom- line positions or opening negotiating gambits.

Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela find themselves at these talks on the same side, sharing the same objectives. The peace offering they shall be putting before the Zulu leaders will revolve around what a government official called 'the king thing'. Their proposal is designed to satisfy the demand for a Zulu kingdom, but stops well short of independence.

According to government and ANC insiders, a Zulu monarchy would be entrenched in the constitution. The king, his prime minister and his princes would not be able to undermine the functions of the elected provincial - much less the national - government but they would have powers over tribal affairs, such as the resolution of land disputes and, most important, they would receive a handsome budget from central government.

The next issue on the agenda will be the elections. Chief Buthelezi will be demanding a postponement of the election date. Neither Mr Mandela nor Mr de Klerk are prepared to accept this.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) - the body supervising the elections - does not contemplate a postponement either. An IEC report this week said it would be impossible to hold free and fair elections in KwaZulu 'in the present climate'. But the IEC chairman, Judge Johan Kriegler, said this did not mean elections would not take place in the rest of Natal. Furthermore, all available measures would be taken to ensure as many people as possible in KwaZulu would be able to vote.

'We can't let the spoilers spoil the election for those who don't want to spoil,' Judge Kriegler said.

One solution would be to register Inkatha on the election list. But it is more likely that the problem will remain unresolved and it will be left to the army to put up a sufficient show of strength to persuade people in KwaZulu it is safe to vote, thereby spoiling the ambitions of the spoilers.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine