At a lunch with foreign correspondents, Mr Mandela gave a confident, wide-ranging performance, alternately good-
humoured and stern, prompting a veteran US observer of the Bush and Reagan presidencies to remark: 'For a 75-year- old, he plays a hell of a game.'
The first question Mr Mandela took concerned General Constand Viljoen, the leader of the Afrikaner Volksfront. The general, who is reported to have been the victim of death threats recently from right- wing hardliners, had said yesterday morning that 'a little bit of violence' might be necessary to prevent more violence later.
'That,' Mr Mandela said, 'is regrettable . . . I sincerely hope that at a later time, when he has less pressure on him, he will realise how dangerous that statement was. He must know that no organisation, least of all the ANC, can be forced into a solution against their better judgement.'
On township violence, Mr Mandela said this was part of a strategy orchestrated by the government. 'De Klerk believes that if this violence continues until 27 April (polling day) then he will cut down the support of the African National Congress, so much so that he may even cling to political power.'
Inkatha, he said, was a 'smoke-screen used by the government to hide their own atrocities'. The point was to intimidate the black population, the ANC's power base, so that they dare not go out to cast their vote.
Questioned about the credibility of this accusation, Mr Mandela described incidents of violence in Sebokeng township, a court case in Pietermaritzburg and the role of military intelligence.
What about Chief Buthelezi, who on Monday accused Mr Mandela of being a dictator-in- waiting? What, a German journalist asked, was Mr Mandela going to do about the threat the Inkatha leader posed to the election? 'I've done everything in my power to come to terms with Chief Buthelezi. If you can suggest what I might do, I'll do anything. I've seen Chief Buthelezi three times to discuss the question of a peaceful settlement. Archbishop Tutu organised a peace meeting for black leaders . . . he didn't come, he didn't apologise.'
He had asked Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, Namibia's President Sam Nu joma, John Major and South Africa's most powerful business leaders to talk to him. 'They all went and came back with empty hands. Now, Sir, advise me: what do you want me to do?'
On a more delicate matter, the political future of his wife, Mr Mandela confirmed that her star was rising: he said that in an internal nation-wide ANC poll to determine who would stand for parliament she had come fifth. 'What the people decide we accept. If the masses of the people decide that in spite of Mrs Mandela's so-called criminal record she must stand for parliament, we are bound by that verdict.'
LONDON - The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, invited South Africa to rejoin after a break of 33 years, Reuter reports.
Speaking in London yesterday, Chief Anyaoku invited South Africa to heal the 'family rift' now that it was becoming a non-racial democracy.