EFFORTS to resolve South Africa's political deadlock through international mediation ran into immediate problems yesterday over the demand by Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi that the April election dates be changed.
A row over the mediators' terms of reference - what items would be included in negotiations - erupted shortly after former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Lord Carrington, the former British foreign secretary, arrived in the country on Tuesday to lead a seven-person international team of mediators.
Dr. Kissinger and Lord Carrington held meetings with Chief Buthelezi and African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela yesterday. After their meeting with Mr. Mandela, they said they would not mediate if the election date was included in the terms of reference.
Kissinger said that the terms of reference he had received on Sunday, before leaving for South Africa, had not included the April 26-28 election date as a subject for mediation.
ANC and Inkatha negotiators were refusing to leave Johannesburg for an undisclosed destination with the mediators yesterday until Buthelezi agreed to these terms.
An Inkatha official said yesterday that the specific exclusion of a postponement in the country's first all-race election was totally unacceptable to Buthelezi. ``There is no way we can accept this,'' the Inkatha spokesman said.
Buthelezi told journalists during a reception for the mediators at a Johannesburg hotel on Tuesday night that any mediation that ruled out a postponement in the election date would be ``a waste of time.''
The agreement on terms, reached after the government joined the mediation process on Monday, and which is in The Monitor's possession, categorically rules out any question of the poll being postponed.
Buthelezi, who requested international mediation, yesterday accused the South African government and ANC of unilaterally changing the terms of reference agreed to on Sunday between Inkatha and ANC negotiating teams. He accused the ANC and government of colluding to keep Inkatha out of the election by not allowing the mediators to consider a change in the election date.
As the mediation efforts ran into trouble, the Transitional Executive Council, the multiracial commission overseeing the transition to democracy, announced a tightening of emergency rule in strife-torn Natal Province, where 185 people have been killed since emergency rule was declared two weeks ago.
The TEC also announced that it was considering a request to extend the period of voting in KwaZulu/Natal, where an Inkatha-led boycott of the poll is jeopardizing the holding of a free and fair ballot.
If Buthelezi is seen to be the spoiler in the mediation effort, this would deepen his pariah status and give further justification to tougher security action against Inkatha elements bent on disrupting the poll.
``I am extremely pessimistic about the chances of international mediation to achieve a breakthrough,'' a Western diplomat says. ``The best that can be hoped for is that an agreement is reached to continue negotiating on constitutional differences after the election.''
But a spokesman for the Consultative Business Movement, which is providing a secretariat for the visiting mediators, said that the government, ANC, and Inkatha were negotiating to finalize terms of reference for the mediation Tuesday night. The mediation would commence as soon as agreements were reached, the spokesman said.
FOLLOWING a meeting with Kissinger and Lord Carrington on Tuesday night, President Frederik de Klerk virtually ruled out the possibility of Inkatha taking part in the elections. ``I think it is extremely doubtful if you look at the logistics and, therefore, I don't expect that it is a practical possibility,'' Mr. De Klerk said.
If the parties approached the mediation effort ``in a solution-oriented spirit and willing to compromise,'' then progress should be possible, he added.
But the future of the election in Natal now appears to be in the hands of the TEC and South African Defense Force, which is coordinating the military effort in the province.