Mandela to face police over killings at ANC offices

Click to follow
President Nelson Mandela, in a political corner over his admission that he ordered African National Congress security guards last year to kill protesters if necessary, faces a police inquiry for his role in what has become known as the "Shell House massacre''.

The President's surprise confession before parliament on Thursday has plunged Mr Mandela into a new scandal which not only tarnishes his saintly image, but also threatens to unleash more bloodshed in the volatile KwaZulu- Natal province

Since his admission, the President has been under fire from his political rivals, who say he should be charged as an accomplice to murder, as well as from the independent Lawyers for Human Rights, which said the comments could be seen as legitimising violence to resolve conflicts.

Yesterday the country's police chief, George Fivaz, announced that he wanted to discuss the President's role in the 28 March 1994 incident.

Eight Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) marchers were allegedly killed by the guards when demonstrators surged around the ANC's Shell House headquarters in Johannesburg.

State radio quoted Mr Fivaz as saying that he would obtain a statement as part of the investigations. Later, in a statement, Mr Fivaz said that he wanted the inquiry into the Shell House killings to be completed rapidly and impartially.

"I believe it to be in the interests of both the [police] and the public that this investigation be rapidly concluded in the most professional and impartial manner possible," the statement said.

A spokesman for Mr Fivaz said the police chief would meet Mr Mandela to discuss his statements about the killings but did not say when the meeting would take place.

The President's remarks caused a storm of protest from blacks and whites, foes and allies alike, who were stunned that a Nobel Peace Prize winner could have played any role in a day of bloodshed in which a total of 60 people were killed in and around Johannesburg.

The ANC has defended the President, saying that he was not giving an order for people "to go on the offensive to murder".

"Under South African and international law you are permitted to kill to defend yourself," said ANC spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa. "He was reiterating the right to self-defence."

None the less, the IFP has seized on the President's statements to demand action.

The slowness of police investigations into the bloodshed has long irked the IFP.

Mr Mandela's comments on the Shell House shootings mark an all-time low in the ANC's relations with the IFP and has added fuel to the fire of an already simmering ANC-IFP conflict over international mediation on the country's proposed new constitution.

Mr Fivaz called on politicians to cool their rhetoric. "Inflammatory political statements have of late unfortunately reached such levels that a real danger to safety and security could emerge," he said.

At least 24 people were killed in fresh violence in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday and at the weekend, police said.