Mandela and Buthelezi to meet Zulu king and tribal chiefs in move to halt violence


PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela and his main black political rival said yesterday they would meet the Zulu king and tribal chiefs to try to find a way to end escalating violence in South Africa's Zulti heartland.

Mr Mandela and the Inkatha leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said they would meet King Goodwill Zwelithini and chiefs soon as a prelude to an imbizo (traditional gathering) to try to end the bloodshed in KwaZulu Natal, in which more than 14,000 were killed in the past decade.

"There can be no military solution to a situation of this matter Mr Mandela told a news conference after talks with Chief Buthelezi at the presidential residence, Mahlambandlovu.

Chief Buthelezi said there had been no arguments at yesterday's talks.

Political violence has subsided in eight of South Africa's nine provinces since the 1994 all race elections brought Mr Mandela and a national unity government to power. But it has surged in KwaZulu Natal, heartland off 9 million Zulus.

Nearly 1,000 people have been shot, burned or hacked to death since the elections. Police said 44 people had been killed in political and criminal violence in KwaZulu Natal since Friday, compared to 47 in the same period a week earlier.

The violence has continued despite appeals for peace by Chief Buthelezi, demanding virtual autonomy for KwaZulu Natal where his Zulu based Inkatha Freedom Party holds regional power and Mr Mandela, who seeks to hold South Africa together and prevent any drift towards ethnicity.

Mr Mandela said after talks with King Goodwill last Friday that he had asked the monarch to call the tribal gathering to "send a strong message of peace" in the province. "Children can't go to school, business is pulling out, it's becoming a ghost province . We can't continue in this situation," he said.

The king, who is trying to steer a neutral political path alter years of tacitly supporting Inkatha, has asked Mr Mandela to make a constitutional ruling that traditional leaders should stay out of politics.