Mandela welcomes 'Bop' back to the national fold

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The Independent Online
People danced and waved African National Congress flags by the roadside as Nelson Mandela's motorcade roared through Mmabatho yesterday during a one-day visit that symbolised the reintegration of the formerly nominally independent territory of Bophuthatswana back into South Africa.

Mr Mandela used the occasion to send a message to the last significant elements holding out against the 26-28 April all-race elections: Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party and chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland, and white extremists of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) and the Conservative Party.

'I think the humiliation which the AWB got the other day has sent a signal to them that they are no more than those who bark without a bite,' he said. The events of last week in Bophuthatswana had shown what could happen in other autonomous territories when the public decided to launch what Mr Mandela called 'a people's uprising' to demand a free political environment. 'The point will not be lost on the people living under toy tyrants in this country,' he said at an afternoon rally.

Mr Mandela said he was scheduled to meet the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, on Friday and would seek accommodation to avoid a repeat of the Bophuthatswana crisis. 'It is my desire to give everybody a lifeline,' he said. 'To give him a silver bridge across which they can retreat.'

Last week, before a civil servants' strike ended in bloodshed, the invasion and then retreat of armed white extremists and the collapse of the government of President Lucas Mangope, such an outpouring of support for the ANC in Bophuthatswana would have been impossible. 'I am just so happy, I never thought it would come so soon,' said Oscar Modimogale, 44, a former detainee and ANC supporter.

Claims by Mr Mangope and his right-wing white allies in the Freedom Alliance that the ANC had little support in Bophuthatswana were dispelled at the football stadium, where a crowd of 35,000 waving the black, green and yellow flags of the ANC greeted Mr Mandela like a conquering hero.

Mr Mandela, travelling with several top ANC officials and his estranged wife Winnie, began the day with a visit to the embassy of South Africa, whose ambassador, Tjaart van der Walt, is effectively governing the territory. His motorcade then sped around town taking him to visit families of people killed in the clashes of last week, before reaching the University of Bophuthatswana. There he promised a rowdy assembly of hundreds of students and civil servants continued investment in education and jobs.

Then it was a meeting with businessmen from Mmabatho and the neighbouring township of Mafikeng, many of whom lost heavily in the fighting and looting last week. The message of Mr Mandela was that while it could not guarantee compensation, the ANC, once hostile to capitalism, was now pro-business and opposed to corruption. Mr Mandela spoke of 'our . . . realisation of the role of business in the transformation of the country.'

DURBAN - Up to 13 blacks were killed in Natal province yesterday in violence building up ahead of South Africa's first all-race elections, Reuter reports.

Police reported nine people were killed in the province early in the day. An ANC official said four members of the movement were killed in the black township of Umlazi outside Durban last night.