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7,000 Zulus March Against Mandela Government

March 28, 1996

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Thousands of Zulu nationalists brandishing clubs and shields marched through downtown Johannesburg Thursday in a show of force against President Nelson Mandela’s government.

The march, commemorating a similar protest two years ago in which more than 50 people were killed, was peaceful. But five people died and six were wounded Thursday in related unrest, mostly in KwaZulu-Natal province, the heartland of South Africa’s 8 million Zulus.

Zulu nationalists, led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his Inkatha Freedom Party, want Mandela’s African National Congress to guarantee them a certain amount of autonomy. The ANC accuses Buthelezi of seeking despotic powers and trying to hinder democracy.

The ANC-Inkatha rivalry has killed thousands in the last decade. It also jeopardized the effort to end South Africa’s apartheid system of white minority rule.

The bloody confrontation that inspired Thursday’s march came just weeks before the historic all-race election that brought Mandela and the ANC to power. Eight of the 50 people killed March 28, 1994, were shot by guards at the ANC’s headquarters.

Whacking their clubs against cowhide shields, some 7,000 Zulus made their way Thursday to a central square where they laid wreaths to commemorate the eight victims and criticized Mandela’s government for failing to arrest anyone in connection with those killings. ``Mandela deserves a death sentence″ read one sign.

Despite the presence of thousands of police, shopkeepers hurriedly locked their doors.

Mandela, who has admitted he gave the guards orders to shoot to kill, says his party acted in self-defense because the building was under attack and police, then under orders of the apartheid regime, refused protection.

In the coastal city of Durban, gunmen sprayed a commuter train with automatic weapons fire, killing three of the four people who died in unrest in KwaZulu-Natal province Thursday. One man also died in a dawn attack in the Soweto black township outside Johannesburg, blamed on Zulu workers preparing for the march.

Fearing a repeat of the 1994 violence, Mandela’s government last week banned Zulus from carrying weapons during the protest Thursday.

But the government reportedly eased the restrictions late Wednesday to allow clubs but not the traditional spears and machetes. Few of those were visible Thursday.

The marchers jeered when a speaker asked if they supported Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. The king split with Buthelezi 18 months ago in what was seen as a political move engineered by the ANC to undermine Buthelezi’s popularity.

During the opening Thursday of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Zwelithini sat silently as Frank Mdlalose, the provincial premier, spoke derisively of meetings between Zwelithini and officials in Mandela’s government.

When he left the chamber in Ulundi, Inkatha supporters outside shouted ``Hamba, hamba″ (``Go, go″) in the most direct rejection of the monarch since his split with Buthelezi.

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