IN a statesmanlike speech before more than 200,000 supporters, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela yesterday made a strong call for peace in conflict-torn Natal and extended the hand of friendship to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's rival Inkatha movement. ``Take your guns, your knives and your pangas (machetes) and throw them into the sea,'' Mr. Mandela told the massive open-air crowd in the scorching Natal sun.
``End this war now,'' said Mandela from a platform about 60 feet above the crowd.
``We condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence as a way of settling differences between our peoples,'' he told the predominantly Zulu crowd outside King's Park stadium.
In a tough 50-minute speech, which gave little opportunity for slogan-chanting or jubilation, Mandela warned that the Zulu conflict was preventing blacks from winning their freedom.
``If we do not bring a halt to this conflict, we will be in great danger of corrupting the proud legacy of our struggle and will endanger the peace process in the whole of our country.''
Acknowledging that peace could be achieved only through talks, Mandela said the ANC would soon hold talks with the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini.
``Let us sit down with Inkatha and make peace,'' he said, invoking the Zulu's proud history of resistance to colonialism.
The crowd sported T-shirts and flags in the black, green and gold colors of the ANC.
Despite the massive crowd, strict discipline was maintained by about 3,000 marshalls from ANC-aligned anti-apartheid groups.
``We extend the hand of peace to Inkatha and hope it might one day be possible to share a platform with its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi,'' Mandela said to catcalls.
He praised Inkatha for its support in demanding the legalization of the ANC and the release of political prisoners. There was no visible Inkatha presence at the rally.