Vain peace plea as Zulu killings mount: 'Never be angry,' urged the Rev Babsy Mkhize as he buried his two murdered brothers, writes Karl Maier in Eshowe

THE high-pitched voices of mourners singing 'I am going home to die no more' drifted in the wind across a vast sugar-cane field as South Africa buried two more of its children in the worsening civil war gripping the province of Natal.

Suddenly, a 30-strong group of young men formed a circle which throbbed in the toyi-toyi dance to the chant of 'We are dying, we are being killed by Inkatha'. It was a militant but sad farewell to their comrades - two young men, Linda, 21, and Wiseman Mkhize, 23 - who were shot as they slept in their home in the township of Gezinsila outside Eshowe.

'In our family this is not the first time that someone has been killed,' the Rev Babsy Mhkize, the murdered men's elder brother, told the mourners. 'I do not know when it will stop. Calm down and never be angry.'

But his words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The Mkhize brothers were the victims of a deadly feud raging in the black townships and rural areas around Eshowe and throughout Natal between Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress. In the past four years, the fighting has claimed up to 10,000 lives, and at least 130 since President F W de Klerk imposed a state of emergency on the province on 31 March.

'It's a war between the children,' said the murdered men's 64-year- old mother, Mildred. She witnessed the murder at her home on the night of 1 April, Good Friday, when a young man banged on the front door, demanding to see Linda. Mrs Mkhize, a deeply religious nurse, remembers him shouting, 'Linda wake up, I want to talk to you, to bring you a special message. Wake up, you know my voice.'

One of the men forced his way into the house and opened fire on her sons. A third boy, a friend named Linda Mazebuko, was also killed in the shooting. Mrs Mkhize ran to hide behind the outdoor toilet, which one of the gunmen fired at before climbing over the garden wall and fleeing.

Of Mrs Mkhize's six children, only three remain alive. Another son was shot in 1991, when the violence in Eshowe first erupted. The youngest, Zamokwakhe, fled to Durban after he was repeatedly beaten and harassed at school.

Last month his name appeared on a pamphlet, entitled 'Know your enemy', which purported to name 36 ANC activists. The leaflet was apparently designed to appear as if Inkatha had written it, but certain errors, such as the misspelling of the Mkhize name, the derogatory reference to a white woman doctor as fat (a characteristic which among Zulus is a sign of good health and beauty), and its talk of the ANC robbing 'you of your King', suggested white authorship.

The families of three people on the list, including the Mkhizes, have been attacked. The others, including half-a-dozen whites, live in fear of their lives.

'At night I lock the security gate leading to the bedroom,' said the Very Rev John Salt, 52, the British- born Dean of the Anglican Cathedral, who was named as an ANC sympathiser. 'There is sort of an ANC-phobia among many of the whites here. If you do something to help somebody from either camp, the ANC or Inkatha, you are tarred.

'There is tremendous fear on the part of a lot of people, black and white, a fear of the future, a fear of change,' said Mr Salt. 'Fear has caused many people to regard the ANC or the IFP as the enemy. And if they are the enemy, it does not matter what you do to them.'

Such dehumanising of one's political adversary is a central feature of the Natal war. The idea was expressed by B I Zulu, the strongly pro-Inkatha Nkosi, or chief, of the KwaMonde area which includes the Gezinsila township. 'If you have got no obedience, you ought not to be called a human-being,' he said in an interview at his home a block from where the Mkhizes died.

'As far as the Zulus are concerned, there are those who have gone for disobedience and there are others who have been taught to respect.'

Chief Zulu, who served in the South African police for 34 years until Chief Buthelezi's KwaZulu 'homeland' government appointed him Nkosi last year, vehemently denied charges by residents of Eshowe and Gezinsila that he, Prince Gideon Zulu, a KwaZulu 'homeland' deputy minister, his one-time driver Elijah 'Nyawoza' Dlolwane, and a white former mayor of Eshowe, are the organisers of local Inkatha hit-squads. 'I am totally opposed to violence,' he said, calling the allegations against him 'a real insult'.

Chief Zulu said he had never fired a weapon in public, despite eyewitness accounts that he did so three weeks ago during a dispute at a shop in the centre of town.

But Chief Zulu seemed to relish a confrontation with ANC activists who have allegedly threatened him. 'Let them dare. I have arms from the KwaZulu government and I have arms I bought when I was on the force,' he said. 'Let them dare to come and they will get their answer.'

A strong supporter of Chief Buthelezi and his decision to boycott the 26-28 April elections, Chief Zulu backs the demand by King Goodwill Zwelithini for a sovereign Zulu kingdom. 'Look at Swaziland, they have a king, and look at England, Margaret Thatcher, her father was a king.'

The ANC, on the other hand, 'is totally out of control' because it fails to respect King Zwelithini and Zulu traditions. 'If it went my way, people who have got no respect would not be allowed to appear on the radio and the TV.'

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