THE Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, and African National Congress President Nelson Mandela made bold overtures of peace over the weekend that could help calm tensions and political violence in strife-torn Natal Province.
The Zulu monarch called on all Zulus to end the violence, and Mr. Mandela warmly congratulated the king and told his own Zulu supporters in Natal to respect the king and traditional chiefs loyal to him.
The Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, headed by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and loyal to the Zulu monarch, yesterday called off a potentially explosive demonstration in downtown Johannesburg scheduled for today. Demonstrators planned to lay wreaths where 11 Inkatha supporters were gunned down on March 28 by ANC security guards outside the ANC headquarters. Fifty-three people were killed and hundreds injured in the clash.
Inkatha's decision to call off the march also followed a warning by President Frederik de Klerk at an election rally near Soweto on Saturday that the security forces would crack down if the demonstration went ahead.
On Friday, the police outlawed the march, but the militant Inkatha Youth League said the organization would defy the police. Yesterday, Inkatha Youth League leader Charles Loliwe said that the march had been ``postponed,'' and a new date would be set following a meeting of the Inkatha leadership.
Peace monitors and diplomats feared the demonstration could lead to a bloody confrontation.
Natal vote to proceed
King Goodwill had severely rebuked Mandela at a summit on April 8 for blocking a police investigation into the death of the 11 demonstrators and for failing to apologize for the deaths.
Inkatha is boycotting the country's first all-race elections scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday next week, and the king has said that he is not able to call on his subjects, who include Inkatha supporters, to vote in the ballot.
The Independent Electoral Commission, the body charged with organizing and certifying the poll, has said that the poll in Natal will go ahead, and that the Inkatha boycott need not prevent it from being declared ``substantially free and fair,'' providing those who want to vote are able to do so.
Some 226 people have been killed in strife-torn Natal Province since emergency rule was declared there on March 31. About 3,000 troops of the South African Defense Force are charged with stabilizing the province so that a free and fair election can be held next week.
According to opinion polls, the majority of the country's 8 million Zulus support the ANC, but the king - and his uncle, Chief Buthelezi - claim to be the custodians of traditional Zulu values and what they call the ``Zulu nation.''
Following a meeting with church leaders led by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday, Goodwill made an impassioned plea to the deeply divided Zulu tribe to ``end the senseless killings'' - a gesture warmly welcomed by political leaders across the political spectrum.
``The humanism that is ingrained in me as a Zulu cries out for an end to the violence,'' Goodwill said in a televised interview on Friday following his meeting with the church leaders.
Buthelezi, the king's main adviser, did not attend the meeting with the church leaders, but Goodwill was accompanied by several royal advisers.
``I plead with them [the Zulus] now to take into their consideration the people killed in Natal/KwaZulu. This must come to an end,'' he said.
Speaking at an ANC rally on Saturday from a hilltop stadium overlooking this sprawling black township near Durban, Mandela asked a crowd of about 12,000 to rise and pay their respects to a monarch seen by many ANC supporters as a tool of Buthelezi's Inkatha.
Mandela, wearing a sage-green, open-necked shirt, insisted that the standing crowd chant the traditional royal greeting ``bayete.''
Mandela praises the king
``I welcome the statement made by His Majesty the King, in which he called on our people to reject violence and commit themselves to peace,'' Mandela told the somewhat bewildered and subdued crowd.
``I was very happy that His Majesty came out against violence. It was a strong call.''
Mandela said that Goodwill's statement was befitting for a man who represented one of the most illustrious royal houses. ``He is not just my leader, he is my king,'' he said.
In a further gesture of conciliation, Mandela told the crowd that he had been the legal adviser to Goodwill's father and, therefore, regarded him also as ``my child.''
Mandela then read in English - translated clause by clause into Zulu by an interpreter - a lengthy ANC offer made to the king at a four-way summit - attended also by Buthelezi and President De Klerk on April 8. The offer commits the ANC to recognize the king as the constitutional monarch of a future KwaZulu/Natal region.
Mandela said indigenous Zulu law would be upheld as long as it did not violate the proposed Bill of Rights and added that he was still negotiating with the royal house about the sensitive issue of land ownership in KwaZulu.