Violence threatens Natal poll again

Pretoria - President Nelson Mandela yesterday said local- government elections in KwaZulu- Natal might have to be postponed for a second time because of widespread violence and intimidation in the province.

He said he would meet the Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in Cape Town today to discuss whether the election should go ahead as scheduled on 29 May, be postponed altogether or be held in stages.

Violence between Mr Mandela's African National Congress and Inkatha, which has a majority in KwaZulu-Natal, has raged on in the province despite the relative calm in most of the country since the all-race general election in 1994.

"There is a high level of deaths in the province," Mr Mandela said after a meeting in Pretoria with Chris Fismer, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Local Government, and his deputy, Mohammed Valli Moosa.

Mr Fismer and Mr Valli Moosa reported to him on a visit they made this week to the province to canvass views on whether the election should go ahead as planned. The poll was postponed in November because of violence and then put off again in March because of a boundary dispute. "There are still no-go areas where there is no guarantee that free and fair elections can be held," Mr Mandela said.

"We cannot ignore the fact that so many people have died and the prediction is that more people are going to die as the rhetoric from the political organisations intensifies. What is the point of having elections when some organisations cannot do their political work in some areas, and these are vast ... areas?"