The articles ''KwaZulu-Natal: South Africa's Perilous Powder Keg,'' and ''Warlord Explains Power of Zulu Pride,'' July 12, leave out three important points:
First, most of the violence in KwaZulu-Natal is political, having less to do with ''tradition'' than with turf. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is only partially about Zulu culture. Basically, local ''chiefs'' and Inkatha leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi are afraid of losing power and are prepared to kill in order to keep it.
Second, Zulus are divided. In last year's national elections, the IFP won 53 percent and the African National Congress 32 percent of the KwaZulu-Natal vote. However, according to officials on the Independent Electoral Commission, there was extensive electoral fraud in IFP provincial strongholds - raising questions about the margin of the IFP victory and commitment to democracy.
Third, the ANC is treading on dangerous territory by attempting to ''buy off'' local ''chiefs.'' This might bring peace now but over time it will reinforce antidemocratic practices. Maybe, as some have suggested, chiefs could hold unpaid positions, acting as public ombudsmen.
However, legislation and politics should be left to elected officials, accountable to their constituents and constitutional law.
Erich D. Mathias New York
Joint Ministry in Africa
Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.