Mandela in show of unity with Buthelezi

Two weeks of threats and recriminations give way to smiles and handshakes for the cameras, but KwaZulu-Natal still simmers

President Nelson Mandela shook the hand of his arch-rival, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, yesterday and smiled for the cameras as if the past two weeks of threats and counter-threats had never happened.

The two joked and laughed as the President declared Chief Buthelezi was "my traditional leader, my chief and my prince". He paid tribute to the head of the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IPF) as one of the people who worked hardest for his release from 27 years of imprisonment under apartheid.

Mr Mandela then stunned onlookers when he referred to simmering violence in KwaZulu-Natal, saying: "There is a problem, but there is no crisis."

It was a curious display from a man who only the previous day had told journalists he was ready to seek additional powers so he could to cut funds to Mr Buthelezi's KwaZulu-Natal administration, which he said had been violently plotting against the central government and supporters of the African National Congress (ANC).

For his part, Mr Buthelezi, Home Affairs Minister in Mr Mandela's Government of National Unity, showed no irony when he declared: "I am a loyal member of the President's cabinet." Twelve days ago, however, he told followers to "rise and resist" a government he accused of arrogance and treachery.

Government officials sought to portray yesterday's display of bonhomie as the result of a conciliatory gesture by the President to calm a situation he created after three speeches this week accusing Inkatha of fomenting a rebellion in KwaZulu-Natal.

Supporters of Mr Mandela say he was shooting from the hip on Monday when he first threatened to withhold funds from the province if Inkatha did not stop agitating against the government. He was angry and frustrated by Inkatha's rantings for special regional dispensation. Mr Mandela yesterday said he had accepted Mr Buthelezi's explanation that he had not intended to foment revolt.

But the situation on the ground was still tense and the potential for greater bloodshed remained. One IFP provincial cabinet minister yesterday told foreign journalists to steer clear of "unsafe" rural areas. "People in the countryside are tense and angry and suspicious. It is very dangerous."

No amount of public hand-pumping can hide the fact that unresolved questions still loom over KwaZulu-Natal. Most important is Inkatha's demand for international mediation on a range of issues, including Zulu self-determination and provincial autonomy. Mr Mandela accepted that demand last year to get Inkatha to take part in the April 1994 elections. The ANC, however, now it is in power, believes mediation is unnecessary and that any outstanding issues can be resolved internally.

Sources close to the ANC say the government will continue to refuse to bend on the issue. At the same time, it is unlikely Inkatha will back away.

Political analysts yesterday said sooner or later Mr Mandela will have to stop wavering and confront his rival, or risk looking weak.

In the meantime, however, those hoping for reconciliation are optimistic that yesterday's kiss-and-make-up session might signal happier days ahead.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn