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Zulu march ends in chaos, gunfire in Johannesburg

March 12, 1997

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Thousands of Zulus marched angrily through downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday in a show of strength that ended in gunfire, reminding the new South Africa of its simmering political rivalries.

The protest marked the unpunished deaths of eight people in a similar demonstration in 1994, shortly before the country’s first all-race election that ended apartheid.

Police reported at least two deaths and nine injuries _ eight from gunshots _ during the day, which began with violence in black townships as Zulu nationalists traveled to Johannesburg for a rally at the central library.

Zulu leaders dressed in tribal skins led individual regiments armed with everything from traditional wooden clubs to rusty mop handles.

Speakers at the rally called for justice for the killings three years ago, when security guards at African National Congress headquarters opened fire on approaching Zulu marchers.

ANC officials, including Nelson Mandela, have said the marchers intended to attack the building and blamed police for failing to keep them away.

``We shall commemorate this day for generations to come until the people who did it are punished,″ shouted Prince Vanana Zulu of Kwa-Miya in Kwazulu-Natal province.

Political fighting between the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party and Mandela’s ANC in the province has killed more than 10,000 people since 1984.

While the prince spoke, prosecutors in Johannesburg announced they would open a judicial inquest into the April 7, 1994, killings, which the Zulu call a massacre.

When the rally ended, shooting began in the downtown streets, causing marchers, police and bystanders to dive for cover. The sound of pistols and automatic weapons echoed off the tall buildings for several minutes. Police said eight people were arrested.

The ANC and police denounced the violence.

``The organizers bear the primary responsibility for the death of the two people,″ the ANC said in a statement.

Portions of the downtown area, South Africa’s commercial capital, looked like a war zone as police used razor wire to cordon off some areas, including the ANC headquarters.

At the Carlton Center, a hotel-shopping mall complex in the city center, onlookers rushed into shops as marchers approached. One man suffered a head wound and said marchers attacked him with a machete.

Soweto police Superintendent Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said a passenger in a taxi van was wounded by gunfire as the vehicle passed a Zulu-dominated workers’ compound early Wednesday morning, and that two bodies were found at another Zulu compound. He said the two probably were killed while passing the hostel before dawn.

More than 50 people died during the 1994 march by Zulus opposing plans for the nation’s first all-race election a month later. Most were killed in violence in black townships as marchers headed downtown or in clashes with police.

Inkatha eventually dropped its opposition to the election and took part, finishing third with about 10 percent of the vote behind the ANC and the white-led National Party.

Zulu leaders want the traditional tribal kingdom in KwaZulu-Natal province to have autonomous powers free of ANC control. Inkatha boycotted the drafting and signing of a new national constitution that denies such autonomy to provincial governments.

Update hourly