SOUTH African President Frederik de Klerk and African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela say they have reached broad agreement on a composite plan to end the violence that has led to a collapse of law and order and a breakdown of normal services in the Katlehong and Tokoza townships east of Johannesburg.
The two leaders did not release details of the plan but said it would be completed in a few days and unveiled next week. The plan will most likely result in a massive security crackdown and the introduction of a socioeconomic upliftment program in these strife-torn areas.
Both ANC and government officials say there had been a meeting of minds between the two leaders during their four-hour meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday. Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela have been at loggerheads on many occasions in the past over the causes of political violence, which is primarily the result of a conflict between rival supporters of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
If violence is allowed to continue in the townships, it would become impossible to hold elections there.
``The crisis in these areas is so grave that I think reasonable supporters of both major parties would be ready to support drastic steps,'' says Jakki Cilliers, director of the independent Institute for Defence Politics in Johannesburg.
``I think what we are seeing here is the start of a security crackdown before the April elections,'' he adds. ``There is no solution other than force in the short-term. You have to put the lid back on and restore law and order before you address the socioeconomic problems.''
Similar steps are expected in northern Natal province, where ongoing conflict between supporters of the ANC and IFP have reached the level of a low-grade civil war that is threatening to block free and fair elections in large parts of the province.
But IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who has vowed to boycott the country's first all-race elections on April 27, said Tuesday that he regards any attempt to send troops into the KwaZulu self-governing territory as an ``invasion.''
In another development Tuesday, Gen. Constand Viljoen, co-leader of the right-wing umbrella group Afrikaner Volksfront and the most moderate of the right-wing leaders, said attempts at a negotiated settlement had reached ``the end of the road.'' He said, for the first time, that there was doubt about holding the April 27 election.
Peace monitors and diplomats are expecting a massive upsurge in the violence in the run-up to the election. For the past 12 months, political murders have averaged about 350 per month, but the areas of conflict have been largely limited to the townships east of Johannesburg and parts of Natal province.
MULTIPARTY negotiators have given the go-ahead for a 10,000-strong multiracial National Peacekeeping Force (NPF) to be set up before the election, but military experts and diplomats are skeptical about the competence of such a hastily trained force.
``It has been left too late,'' says Laurie Nathan of the Cape Town-based Center for Intergroup Studies, an independent conflict resolution and mediation body. ``Those responsible have made a critical error by failing to define a clear mandate for the NPF. Giving heavy weapons and powers of arrest to hastily trained people from antagonistic groups could prove to be counterproductive.''
The ANC announced Wednesday an internal commission of inquiry into the activities of some of its Special Defence Units - hastily trained youths who attempt to protect the community from hostel attacks. Recent strife between rival SDU's in the Katlehong and Tokoza area have added a new dimension to the violence.
The crisis was the subject of urgent discussion Tuesday by the Transitional Executive Council, the all-race commission overseeing the run-up to the elections.