South African Elections: 'Miracle men' bring their medicine

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The Independent Online
JOHANNESBURG - Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger arrived in Johannesburg yesterday in the hope of achieving a miracle, writes John Carlin.

That, at any rate, was how Mangosuthu Buthelezi defined the measure of their task. And Chief Buthelezi, the Inkatha leader, should know. For when the two notables formally begin their mediation exercise at a secret venue today between Inkatha and the African National Congress, their immediate objective will be to hit upon a political formula that will mollify Chief Buthelezi sufficiently to call off his supporters' violent campaign against South Africa's first democratic elections, just two weeks away.

The Inkatha leader, the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, and the ANC's deputy secretary-general, Jacob Zuma, turned up at a reception at Johannesburg's Carlton Hotel formally to welcome Lord Carrington, Mr Kissinger and the five other members of their international mediation team.

The first to speak was Chief Buthelezi, who said that the terms of reference of the mediation would focus on 'outstanding constitutional issues'. These revolve around Inkatha's desire for greater constitutional powers to be devolved to regional governments, notably in Natal/KwaZulu.

'We pray the Almighty Lord that through the efforts of the mediators, a miracle can be produced to bring South Africa on to the path of long-lasting peace and democracy,' Chief Buthelezi said. Mr Botha, the world's longest-serving foreign minister, then said how gratified he was that the world was taking such a keen interest in South Africa. And then Mr Zuma, the ANC's highest- ranking Zulu leader, told the mediators: 'We believe you will be able to help us in our hour of need.'

Mr Kissinger then spoke on behalf of the seven. He got off to a halting start - he called Mr Zuma 'Mr Muza' - but improved as he went on, delighting the captains of business and other prominent South Africans. 'I can only marvel at the progress, at the truly heroic achievement of all the parties to overcome their memories, their suffering, their doubts to come to this point,' he said.

'What is happening here is important not just for South Africa but for all those in the world who hope for non-racial societies and democratic outcomes.' The task of the mediators, he said, was to assist in finishing the job.