South Africa's rival leaders unite in prayer: Spirit of peace may move Zulus to agree to attend talks with foes

IT IS not often that rival candidates go to church together three and a half weeks before an election. Less common is it for two leaders whose supporters are slaughtering each other every day to join in prayers for peace.

Nelson Mandela and F W de Klerk, the leading contenders in the elections of 26-28 April, yesterday attended an Easter Sunday service together in the appropriately biblical setting of Zion City before a throng of 1 million congregants. With them was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who declared only eight days ago that his conservative Zulu supporters would fight Mr Mandela's African National Congress 'to the finish'.

Also present at the most ecumenical political gathering South Africa has seen were Clarence Makwetu, leader of the radical Pan-Africanist Congress, Zach de Beer of the liberal Demoratic Party and Jerry Mosala of the Azanian People's Organisation.

Whether it was the holiness of the setting that inspired them, or the peace entreaties contained in the sermons, Mr Mandela, Mr de Klerk and Chief Buthelezi announced that they would all be meeting this Friday in the presence of the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, to try to work out a formula to bring an end to political violence and pave the way for free and fair elections.

The meeting will take place against the background of a state of emergency in Natal. On Saturday night the police reported 19 deaths, nine of them members of a family loyal to the ANC.

Mr Mandela told reporters yesterday en route to Zion City that it would take time before sufficient troops were deployed in Natal to bring the violence under control. Referring to the talks later this week, he said: 'The measures which we have taken are both political and security measures. The combination of the two should . . . be able to bring us the result that we seek.'

There is always the possibility, as has happened once already, that either King Goodwill or Chief Buthelezi will change their minds at the last minute and the talks will be called off. There was no question, however, of any of the political leaders present yesterday turning down invitations from Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane, head of the all-black Zion Christian Church (known as the ZCC), to attend South Africa's biggest annual religious event.

Zion City, 200 miles north of Johannesburg, is to the ZCC's 2 million faithful what the Vatican is to Roman Catholics. The ZCC is by far the largest of South Africa's 4,000 independent African churches. It is also one of the most conservative, eschewing - in contrast to the liberation-aligned Anglican and Methodist churches - any kind of political engagement.

Blending African, Christian and Jewish traditions, the ZCC frowns on alcohol, tobacco and pork, embraces polygamy and witchcraft, fixes women a rung down the evolutionary ladder and has a fabulously wealthy leader who, half-tribal chieftain and half-pope, demands meek and unquestioning tribute from his flock.

Yesterday's event, at which the political leaders were prohibited from making any political statements, was a celebration of peace and righteousness. Gather a million black people on a mountain-side in Natal and, the chances are, you'll have a bloodbath. God's battalions, gathered without a weapon in sight to listen to Bishop Lekganyane's annual sermon on the mount (assisted by a vast loudspeaker system), put on a display of regimented orderliness that would have put to shame the best-drilled army in the world.

So dispersed was the crowd over an area about a mile square that very few actually saw the political leaders. But the reason why it was politically imperative that all six attended was that they could not be seen, at this time, to be turning down an invitation from a church which offers as massive a sample of the black floating voter population as it is possible to muster in South Africa.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African government would consider delaying regional voting in the Natal- KwaZulu region to bring the Inkatha Freedom Party into the elections, a government source said yesterday, Reuter reports.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor