SOUTH AFRICA'S transitional council appeared headed for confrontation yesterday with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi by demanding that the head of police in his KwaZulu 'homeland' co-operate with an investigation into hit-squads.
The 19-member Transitional Executive Council, an advisory body with special powers set up to oversee South Africa's transition to democratic rule, threatened legal action if police chief Lieutenant-General Roy During, failed to comply with the order. The TEC action followed General During's reply to the council's original request last week that he could not help the investigation into hit-squads inside the police because Chief Buthelezi's KwaZulu government had ordered him not to.
In effect, the TEC's order yesterday was an attempt to ignore the KwaZulu government. Its unanimous resolution said the council wanted 'to immediately correct any uncertainty arising from General During's obligation to the TEC and the irrelevance of his instructions from the KwaZulu government'.
Last week Justice Richard Goldstone's commission on political violence announced that it had found 'credible evidence' of a hit-squad inside the KwaZulu police which was allegedly responsible for the murders of members of the African National Congress. 'The fact that hit-squads are operating in South Africa cannot seriously be doubted,' the report said.
The team of assassins was believed to be part of a group of 200 members of Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party trained in 1986 by South African Military Intelligence in Namibia's Caprivi Strip. A Goldstone commission inquiry in June found that the Inkatha members were instructed in the use of AK-47 and G-3 assault rifles and RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades before joining the KwaZulu police force in June 1989.
Chief Buthelezi, whose mainly Zulu Inkatha party is allied with leaders of South Africa's nominally independent 'homelands' and right-wing Afrikaners in the Freedom Alliance, which opposes the new draft constitution, has refused to commit himself to contesting the country's first-ever multi-racial elections, scheduled for 27 April.
Inkatha and the Freedom Alliance, which includes the extreme right-wing Afrikaner Volksfront, has demanded the draft constitution be amended to provide greater regional power, self-determination for Afrikaners and special privileges for 'homelands'. The alliance has also demanded that the proposed single-ballot system for next year's elections be replaced by two ballots to allow voters the option of voting for one party at the national level and another for their region.
Parliament has begun considering proposed amendments to the draft constitution and was expected to approve it early next week. Officials of the ANC and President F W de Klerk's National Party have justified the one-ballot system by saying it would be less confusing. Many observers, however, believe the two parties fear that a two-ballot system would allow smaller parties to erode their support at the regional level.
Despite Chief Buthelezi's repeated threats to resign as the Inkatha leader should a special party congress next month overrule his rejectionist stand, there are signs that Inkatha has begun preparing to contest the polls. But there are also signs that Inkatha has not discarded the military option. South African press reports say a former policeman and right-wing whites have been training Inkatha youths in at least two camps in the Natal province.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies