Mandela calls for peace force

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The Independent Online
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Wendezi, South Africa (Reuter) - The ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, called yesterday for the establishment of an internal peace force to deal with political violence in South Africa.

Starting a three-day tour of Natal province, Mr Mandela told African National Congress supporters in Wendezi that South Africa's security forces did not have the capacity to end the violence. 'We are calling for the formation of an internal peace force . . . the only qualification should be that the peace force be composed of people who are committed to peace in this country,' he said.

Three massacres since 2 March, including the killing of six children, have heightened tension in Natal's volatile Midlands region and threatened the country's progress to non-racial democracy.

Speaking in Zulu in a hastily erected tent in the dusty township 75 miles west of the provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg, Mr Mandela said the international community should play a role in setting up an internal peace force.

He said the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth should appoint the force's commander. The ANC leader said his visit to Natal indicated how serious the situation was. He planned to attend the funeral in Mboyi this morning of the six children slaughtered by gunmen on their way to school in a pick-up truck.

The head of the ANC's main political rival, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), was expected to attend the funeral, giving the two men a rare opportunity to meet.

Three of the dead children were from the family of a local Inkatha leader. Three ANC members have appeared briefly in Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court in connection with the murders. Political leaders said that the killings could be an attempt to derail the democracy process.

Democracy negotiators are to meet in Johannesburg on 1 April to thrash out terms for a transition to democracy from white minority rule. There was a brief scare at Pietermaritzburg when Mr Mandela's light twin-engined plane bringing him from Johannesburg developed engine trouble. But it landed safely.