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Botha Makes New Plea to Black Leaders : Zulu Chief Shuns Bid for Political Talks While Mandela Is Jailed

May 25, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — President Pieter W. Botha, repeating his offer of open-agenda, top-level talks to resolve South Africa's prolonged political crisis, appealed Sunday to the leaders of the country's black majority to negotiate the nation's future with him.

"Join me in talks and negotiations," Botha said in signed, full-page advertisements in the major English and Afrikaans newspapers. "We will find the answers to our questions together."

Recalling his pledge to Parliament last week to become involved personally in "this search for peaceful answers" and to broaden and intensify the long-stalled discussions on a new constitutional system here, Botha said that white voters in this month's parliamentary elections gave him "an overwhelming mandate to negotiate with representative leaders of our black community and groups about our common future."

Most Critical Issue

While there are many pressing issues, including education, unemployment, housing and security, facing blacks and whites alike, Botha said that, "Above all, the question of our political future must be answered. My government and I have the power, the will, the desire and the mandate to work out the answers to these questions with all leaders who reject violence. . . . That is why I am now extending my hand of friendship to all South Africans of good will."

But Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, the powerful Zulu leader and president of the 1.1-million-member Inkatha political movement, immediately responded that neither he nor any other major black leader could join the proposed negotiations while such key figures as Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress are imprisoned.

"In such circumstances, it is not possible for any leader who went to negotiate with the state president to demonstrate that he or she had any support," Buthelezi said in Durban, arguing that unless blacks are free to choose their leaders, the negotiations would not succeed. Although he is himself committed to the politics of negotiation, Buthelezi said he would not take part in negotiations that "must necessarily fail."

Serving Life Sentence

Besides including Mandela, who is serving a life sentence for sabotage and plotting the overthrow of the white-minority government, Buthelezi said that the negotiations must be among leaders with popular mandates, that they must be public and that they must be a trial-and-error process in which the results are confirmed, step by step, rather than "a once-only discussion leading to implementation of that which was negotiated."

Buthelezi, whose participation is widely regarded as essential to any attempt to negotiate a new political system for South Africa, again rejected Botha's proposal for a "national council" as the forum to discuss issues primarily affecting blacks and to negotiate a new "power-sharing" constitution for the country.

Blacks will not take part in the proposed council, Buthelezi said, primarily because it is based on continuation of the tribal homelands and the establishment of independent black "city-states" that are seen as aimed at depriving millions of urban blacks of South African citizenship. If he or other black leaders supported such proposals, Buthelezi said, they would lose whatever popular following they have.

Black Shot Dead

In the country's continuing civil unrest, police headquarters in Pretoria reported that a black man was shot and killed and two teen-agers were wounded at Langa, near the industrial center of Uitenhage in eastern Cape province, when police tried to arrest a group of men carrying firebombs made from gasoline-filled bottles.

Three men believed to be African National Congress guerrillas were killed over the weekend when gunmen in an automobile overtook them and opened fire near Mbabane, capital of neighboring Swaziland, according to the independent South African Press Assn. One of the men was said to be a commander in the ANC's military wing, Spear of the Nation. The attack was the latest in a recent series of such incidents involving ANC members in Swaziland, and suspicion is now widespread that South African intelligence agents are responsible.

In Gaborone, capital of Botswana, Ronald Watson, a prominent white South African anti-apartheid activist, narrowly escaped assassination, according to his family. Valence Watson said that his brother was assaulted in his hotel room by an armed man who tried to kill him, but that Ronald succeeded in wresting the gun away and subduing the man in a tussle during which several shots were fired. The assailant, who carried a British passport, is being held by Botswana police, and Ronald Watson is in hiding, his brother said.

Police Offer Reward

Police in Johannesburg released an artist's drawing and description of a black man believed responsible for the car bombs that fatally injured four white policemen and wounded 15 other people here Wednesday. Promising an arrest soon, police offered a $5,000 reward for information that would solve the case.

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