Mandela refuses to consider postponing KwaZulu elections

Karl Maier
Wednesday 06 April 1994 23:02

'WE WILL not postpone our freedom,' Nelson Mandela said yesterday in rejecting calls to postpone South Africa's first all-race elections in the KwaZulu homeland controlled by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi because of worsening violence which has claimed at least 100 lives in the past six days.

'Let me tell you there will be no postponement of elections . . . either in the province of Natal or in any of the provinces,' said Mr Mandela, the ANC president.

Mr Mandela was reacting to demands by Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, which has engaged the ANC in low-level civil war in Natal, to delay the elections until international mediators can negotiate a settlement between the two organisations. His rejection came a day after a committee comprising officials of the Independent Electoral Commission, which is running South Africa's first democratic elections, the KwaZulu homeland authorities and the South African government had 'reached a unanimous conclusion that in the current political climate, elections cannot be held in KwaZulu.'

The committee said that the state of emergency imposed by President F W de Klerk on 31 March should help the Electoral Commission's work in the province. The commission's chairman, Justice Johann Kriegler, said yesterday that the political climate, not the election date, needed to be changed.

The South African Defence Force (SADF), which has spearheaded enforcement of the state of emergency, had not had enough time to calm the violence, Mr Mandela said. 'People have questioned - what is the use of this state of emergency if people continue to be killed?' he said. 'Stem your judgement until the SADF has brought all the forces required to this province.'

An emergency ban on the carrying of 'traditional weapons', such as clubs and spears, was flouted at a rally by 15,000 Inkatha supporters in the northern town of Empangeni on Tuesday. The Natal Police Commissioner, Lieutenant- General Colin Steyn said: 'Police did not at the time attempt to disarm the people carrying such weapons for fear of a confrontation and potential loss of life, injury or damage to property.'

Monitors reported that the death toll since the declaration of the state of emergency had reached 101 by yesterday. Ten people were shot dead around Ndwedwe, north of Durban, on Sunday.

President de Klerk and Mr Mandela are scheduled to meet Chief Buthelezi and the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, tomorrow. 'The main purpose is to see how I can address his (King Zwelithini's) concern and allay his fears that his position is threatened by the government of national unity which will be sworn in after 27 April,' said Mr Mandela.

Political violence in Natal and the KwaZulu homeland it surrounds has worsened since King Zwelithini issued a demand on 18 March for an independent Zulu monarchy. That same day, an independent commission revealed evidence of a conspiracy by three senior policemen to arm and train Inkatha members and the KwaZulu homeland police to destabilise the transition to democracy.

Mr Mandela yesterday accused the ruling National Party of diverting public funds 'for abuse . . . and use to kill innocent people'. He hinted at cutting funds to the KwaZulu government, which gets most of its budget from Pretoria.

(Photograph omitted)

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