`She Elephant' lends weight to Zulu peace

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The Independent Online

The Queen brought the two feuding leaders of South Africa's 8 million Zulus together at the high table of a state banquet aboard the royal yacht Britannia last night after lashing sub-tropical rain welcomed the British monarch to the troubled province of KwaZulu/Natal.

She will have a private audience with King Goodwill Zwelethini today, a meeting that follows her audience on Monday with Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu King's ambitious antagonist and the controversial Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa's government.

"It would be pretty extraordinary if there was not any political discussion," said a palace spokesman. "As Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen takes an interest in peace in the new South Africa."

Polite comments over a dinner of pheasant from Sandringham may not amount to the international mediation demanded by Chief Buthelezi on the question of Zulu monarchy and a federal status for KwaZulu/Natal. But the fifth day of the Queen's six-day tour of South Africa did provide welcome distraction from the bloody feuds that divide the country's largest ethnic group, even if it did not bring a break in the unrelenting rainfall.

Wet young Zulu warriors with chattering teeth and a smattering of bare- breasted Zulu girls waited to give the royal party a command performance at a black township secondary school in Umlazi, south of Durban.

The dance and a speech that included clicking Zulu tongue-twisters had the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh looking far better amused than at most of their engagements. "Welcome to the British Queen - the She Elephant has come," the students chanted respectfully in Zulu.

The Vukuzakhe School is already one of the best black township schools in South Africa, and the Queen inaugurated a study centre built by the Nations Trust, a British-South African venture of which she and President Nelson Mandela are to be joint patrons. rom the comments of the students, its computer already seemed to have had an impact, as did the Queen.

"She's old, but we like her all the same,'' said Pumla Maphisa, 16. ``I feel very honoured. It shows people here in South Africa that there really is contact with the world."

The 75 per cent Zulu province's continued stability depends in large measure on whether differences can be smoothed over between Chief Buthelezi and his wish for autonomy and the centralising tendency of Mr Mandela's African National Congress.

King Goodwill is stuck in the middle and it is unclear if the moral authority of the British monarch can make much difference when almost all casual political murders afflict the poor townships and far-flung villages in the green hills of Zululand.