JOHANNESBURG — DIPLOMATIC and political pressure is mounting for increased international involvement in South Africa's deepening political crisis.
Diplomats shy away from use of an international peacekeeping force, but seek a UN role in support of negotiations and the training of an internal, multiparty peacekeeping group.
The discussions follow the worst wave of political violence in three years. About 700 people have died since July 2, when a tentative date of April 27, 1994, was set for the country's first democratic ballot.
There is a deepening impasse at multiparty negotiations, which the right-wing Conservative Party and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) are boycotting.
The increasingly unpredictable behavior of IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi has led diplomats to view the crisis in the talks as one of the most serious since the African National Congress (ANC) was legalized three-and-a-half years ago.
The multiparty talks are facing an Aug. 30 deadline to finalize a draft constitution and plans for a multiparty transitional authority, both of which are being resisted by Chief Buthelezi in their present form.
President Frederik de Klerk must decide at this point whether to leave Buthelezi behind and proceed with the ANC or risk a collapse of the negotiating process.
"We just don't know what Buthelezi actually wants anymore," says a senior ANC official on condition of anonymity.
Chief Buthelezi, who has accused the government and ANC of steamrollering decisions in negotiations that would prevent political autonomy in the KwaZulu homeland in Natal Province, launched a vitriolic attack on the United States Tuesday. Buthelezi accused the US of backing an ANC victory because it wanted a settlement "at any price."
"The proposals that the US wants me to accept are proposals that will thrust this country into civil war," Buthelezi said.
Western diplomats said Buthelezi was reacting to a recent speech by US Ambassador to South Africa Princeton Lyman in which he warned of the dangerous consequences of "war talk" by South African leaders.
Diplomats said a recent exchange of letters between Buthelezi and Mr. Lyman could also be behind the Zulu leader's outburst. In the exchange, the US ambassador urged Buthelezi to instruct the IFP to return to the talks and to refrain from further threats of civil war. Buthelezi reacted angrily in a follow-up letter.
"It is time that the UN and [its] Secretary-General again engaged the major players in South Africa," said a Western diplomat close to the talks.
One diplomat referred to the positive impact made by a UN initiative last June when Special Envoy Cyrus Vance visited ahead of the installation of some 50 UN monitors. "It may be that what is needed is a new envoy, a new report, a careful consideration of the role of the UN in preparing for elections, and an augmentation of the international observers," the diplomat said.
A panel chaired by US attorney Charles Ruff Wednesday told the Goldstone Commission, a standing judicial inquiry into political violence, that a peacekeeping service under multiparty civilian command was preferable to an international force. "The international community could assist with the training of such a service," another diplomat suggested.
Yesterday the government increased the presence of armed troops in affected townships after the Cabinet said Tuesday the current anarchy in townships could not be allowed to continue.
ANC President Nelson Mandela cut short an international trip to visit violence-wracked townships east of Johannesburg yesterday and held talks with President De Klerk later in the day. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Laureate, called Monday for an international peacekeeping force "as a matter of extreme urgency."
"The latest killings ... have demonstrated beyond doubt that we are incapable of restoring law and order ourselves," Tutu said, adding that his call did not question the sovereignty of the state.
Military experts are skeptical that a peacekeeping force capable of replacing the existing security forces could be operating before an election. De Klerk has ruled out the idea of an international force, but has supported the idea of a multi-party peacekeeping force as an auxiliary to existing security forces.
The multiparty negotiating forum is discussing an ANC proposal for a joint peacekeeping force under the control of a multiparty transitional authority.
Western diplomats are vigorously discouraging the idea of an international peacekeeping force.
"There is no way that the UN will send in peacekeepers," says the Western diplomat.
"We are trying to drive home to certain South African leaders that there is no international safety net if their war talk and predictions of civil war become a reality," the diplomat adds.