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SA's new order faces first test

THE PROBLEMS that face South Africa's new multi-racial authority appeared in stark relief last week as both the Zulu leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and Pretoria challenged its rulings. In its first week, the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) struck a wall of opposition over its attempts to investigate and curb human rights abuses by police in the KwaZulu 'homeland' governed by Chief Buthelezi.

The Executive Council on Thursday gave the KwaZulu police three days to respond to charges by the Goldstone commission on violence that a police hit squad murdered at least nine people over the past two years, including members of the African National Congress (ANC). The KwaZulu police commissioner, General Roy During (appointed and paid by Pretoria), said he had been ordered to ignore the Executive Council's request by Chief Buthelezi because his Inkatha party and its white allies in the Freedom Alliance do not recognise its authority. The Executive Council will consider General During's statement at a meeting on Tuesday. Although the council is charged with overseeing several areas of government - including law and order - in the run-up to multi-racial elections on 27 April, there is much dispute over the extent of its powers. It has asked the government to send South African police to areas in Natal now patrolled by the KwaZulu force, only to be rebuffed by Hernus Kriel, the Law and Order Minister.

'There is no way we can go into KwaZulu,' said a ministry source. 'There is likely to be a clash between the government and the TEC over the limits of its authority. The TEC thinks it's running the country . . . we'll see.' An ANC spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, said: 'The Executive Council Act is now the law of the country, and we expect it to be applied across the country, including in the homelands.'

'The KwaZulu government did not participate in the decision nor was it consulted regarding the establishment of the TEC and hence recognises no obligation to provide it with any information,' General During said on Friday.

Mr Kriel can appeal against the order, but if it is endorsed by the independent electoral commission and its special electoral court, the police must obey. On Thursday Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC secretary-general, said that the Executive Council should resist efforts by Pretoria to reduce it to a 'toy telephone' or a 'toothless animal', after attempts by President F W de Klerk to portray it merely as an advisory body. Mr de Klerk accused Mr Ramaphosa of 'blowing the TEC up' and making it into a 'tiger'. He warned: 'The government has not stopped governing.'

The Executive Council's attempts to curb Chief Buthelezi's power in KwaZulu may force a showdown with the Chief, who boycotted the multi- party talks that created the council and the blueprint for democracy in South Africa.

Chief Buthelezi has warned repeatedly of 'civil war' if South Africa does not adopt a more federalist system, guaranteeing a white homeland and, he hopes, offering him a chance to keep a grip on KwaZulu. The Executive Council's challenge to Chief Buthelezi's authority means he may face two stark choices: to submit and see his power diminished, or to mobilise his forces.