Natal shantytown fights intimidation: John Carlin went to Bambayi, where Gandhi lived, to discover the roots of the violence threatening South Africa's elections

IN December 1904 Mahatma Gandhi visited what is now Bambayi and decided this was the place to establish a rural commune where he could develop the idea that simplicity and sharing were the recipe for a harmonious life.

It requires only a small leap of the imagination to see why he chose this spot. The big city, Durban, is a safe 20 miles away. The Indian Ocean, provider of fruitful rains and balmy semi-tropical air, lies across the gentle green hills to the east. Today Gandhi's house offers the only reminder - a sadly ironic reminder - of the grand old ideal. Bambayi (a Zulu corruption of Bombay) is a shanty inhabited by 30,000 people. More than 200 have died in the past year in clashes between supporters of Inkatha and the African National Congress.

Indications are that things will get worse. For Bambayi is in Natal province where Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader, has decided to make his last stand against the ANC. This is Zulu country and although the majority of Zulus appear, according to all the polls, to support Nelson Mandela's ANC, it is the only part of South Africa where Chief Buthelezi can entertain any hope of preserving a political foothold after the April elections.

What is still uncertain is whether he will lead Inkatha into the elections or not. If he does not the bloodshed will increase. But either way, fear being Inkatha's favoured instrument of political persuasion, more violence is guaranteed. Already during the last eight years Natal has endured what academics call a 'low-intensity', Zulu-on- Zulu war in which close to 10,000 have died. The massacre two weeks ago of 15 ANC youths planning a voter education workshop offered what looked like a taste of things to come. Which was why last Tuesday Mr Mandela went down on his knees, as he put it, before Inkatha's leader and pleaded for peace.

The chief's trump card, Mr Mandela knows all too well, is the threat of what the media call 'civil war'. But the truth is that Mr Mandela is begging in the dark. Neither he nor anyone else in the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters appears to have a clear idea of what the nature of the violence is.

A visit to Bambayi on Thursday afternoon offered some answers. Geoff Blose, 32, is an ANC election organiser in the Bambayi area and, as such, is an endangered species. Stanley Blose, no less endangered, is a thin, bespectacled young man who describes himself as the Bambayi 'chairperson' of the South African Communist Party. Amos Khweshube is a grey-bearded man who speaks no English and bears two bullet wounds from the fighting last year.

Mr Kweshube's house was attacked at 3am last Monday, he said, by the Internal Stability Unit (ISU) of the police. One man died and two were injured. 'There's only very few Inkatha people in the area. The problem is they have guns and the support of the ISU. Bring in the army here, preferably black soldiers we can communicate with in our own language, and then we'll talk to the Inkatha people and find peace.'

Stanley Blose had read in the papers that the ISU had been withdrawn from Katlehong, until recently the most violent of the townships outside Johannesburg, then the army had come in and, 'just like that', the killings had gone right down. 'We just need impartial security here. Everybody knows, especially the police, that the problem comes from a small group of Inkatha people who call themselves 'the Greens'. They're called that because they wear green belts when they attack. A chap called Denis leads them. He's an outsider who Inkatha brought in.'

Geoff Blose, no relation to Stanley, listened quietly to the two men and then took stock. 'The worry is that we hear from our underground structures that people trained by Inkatha are being deployed all over the area. They are hit squads, they say, trained in Umfolozi.'

This was not necessarily idle gossip. Last week Inkatha displayed at a passing-out parade 1,400 men trained in the use of automatic rifles in Umfolozi, 100 miles north of Bambayi, by a former security policeman called Philip Powell. 'We don't believe,' Mr Blose said, 'that these people are capable of starting a big civil war, like some say. It's not a face-to-face war we fear. We have 15,000 paid-up ANC members here alone. But they have hit squads that move around and attack under cover of night, with the help of the ISU. What we fear is the terror created by the hits and the massacres. Our people fear campaigning and maybe they will fear voting. On election day five people can be shot, then people hear the news on the radio and are not willing to leave home and vote. Intimidation is the weapon of Inkatha to cause chaos for the elections.'

And how did he feel? 'I'm worried because some of these Inkatha people know me. I don't feel safe walking around on my own.' Why did he do it? 'I will continue election organising, voter education, canvassing. I do it with the knowledge they can shoot me because we believe that when the ANC takes over we'll end the violence.'

Events in Bambayi two days later, on Saturday, would have challenged Mr Blose's resolve. The Greens, in a version confirmed by the police yesterday, attacked a section of Bambayi where ANC feeling is dominant. Armed with AK47s they killed 12 people, destroyed 20 shacks and burnt two vehicles. The ISU, according to eyewitnesses, stood by and watched.

(Photograph and map omitted)

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series