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Killing Subsides As Election Nears, But Natal War Zones Remain Tense

April 22, 1994

UMLAZI, South Africa (AP) _ The latest wave of killing between rival political parties in this township has ebbed since the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party ended its boycott of next week’s elections.

But Inkatha supporter Kwazi Dlamini remains wary.

″It’s still not easy to go over there,″ said Dlamini, gesturing toward the section of Umlazi controlled by rival African National Congress loyalists. ″On both sides, people are dead. It will take long to get us together.″

More than 300 people in ″T Section″ - Umlazi’s Inkatha stronghold - have died in political violence since 1991. Hundreds of ANC backers also have died in the township that sprawls across low hills just inland from Durban’s seaside airport.

The violence has died down since Inkatha announced Tuesday it would join in the elections next week. But hostility between pro-ANC and pro-Inkatha Zulus remains.

Zulu nationalist leaders in Umlazi and other once-embattled townships are unrepentant of the election boycott that provoked months of deadly conflict and are wary of more trouble once the voting ends.

Mistrust between Inkatha and the ANC is high, and each side claims the other has stepped up paramilitary training programs.

″The only thing we did was protect ourselves,″ the top Inkatha official in Umlazi, Themba Mabaso, said Thursday. ″There was never any communication - once they saw you, they killed you.″

As he spoke, people in a nearby shed - some of them illiterate - received instructions from election workers on how to grapple with the first meaningful election of their lives.

Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi had threatened to keep his party out of the elections because he wanted stronger guarantees of Zulu political and cultural autonomy under the new government, likely to be ANC-led.

Buthelezi’s critics blame the boycott for an escalation of the 10-year-old conflict. But his backers blame President F.W. de Klerk and ANC leader Nelson Mandela for resisting compromise until this week, when they helped end the boycott by agreeing to constitutional recognition of the Zulu monarchy.

″If these people hadn’t made such a point of blocking Inkatha, they could have saved hundreds of lives,″ said Eugene Mlaba, an Inkatha official in Mpumalanga, about 20 miles inland from Durban. ″Some of our people felt they were ignored, whatever issue they tried to raise.″

Mpumalanga was one of Natal Province’s worst killing zones in the late 1980s, but a unique treaty signed in 1990 has turned the township into a rare example of peaceful Inkatha-ANC coexistence.

Even there, however, the election campaign has brought unsettling changes. Claiming the ANC was providing military training to some young supporters, Inkatha sent about 200 of its followers from Mpumalanga to join about 5,000 others at training camps to form a new ″self-protection″ force.

Philip Powell, a former South African police intelligence officer who ran the program, said each of the trainees received weapons instruction and was asked to return home to train an additional 10 men.

He denied accusations that the trainees were issued weapons to keep, saying the camps had only about 150 guns loaned by the KwaZulu homeland police.

Powell said the ANC’s military wing numbers 12,000 to 16,000, and continues to train.

″We have suffered very greatly as a result of the military offensives waged by those forces - 350 Inkatha officials killed,″ he said. ″We can’t stand back and see our people slaughtered.″

Mary de Haas, a University of Natal anthropologist and expert on the Zulus, said the emergence of the Inkatha self-protection force was ″pretty ominous.″

″Many of them are armed with all sorts of lethal weapons. They’ve had commando and nighttime operations training,″ she said. ″The whole thing is a Frankenstein monster.″

In still-peaceful Mpumalanga, local Inkatha chairman Sipho Mlaba - Eugene’s brother - agreed the self-protection forces could become a danger. He worried that the young men on both sides - if unable to find jobs - might use their new military skills for criminal ends.

″We didn’t want to send our young men for training, but the ANC was doing it, and our community was nervous,″ he said. ″Now both sides are trained and everybody’s scared.″

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