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Zulu Clans Fight Each Other as Violence Escalates in South Africa's Natal Region

December 29, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Regulations under South Africa's 18-month-old state of emergency prohibit foreign correspondents from reporting fully on the country's political crisis and civil strife. This article has been curtailed to conform to the rules, particularly those restricting the reporting of most unrest and of government measures to deal with it before police release that information.

Violence continues to escalate in South Africa's strife-torn Natal province, with Zulu clans now battling each other amid the murderous clashes between rival political groups there.

Police headquarters in Pretoria reported Monday that eight more people were killed in the political feuding between the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid groups, and the predominantly Zulu Inkatha movement led by Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.

The focus of the clashes remained the Natal provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg, which has become the battleground in recent months in the bitter political rivalry. On one side are supporters of the United Democratic Front and its ideological patron, the African National Congress; on the other side are members of the more moderate Inkatha movement.

'Struggle for Future'

The parties are divided first on the issue of how to end apartheid, but the more important questions that separate them are what will replace that system and who will shape the replacement.

"This is a struggle for the future of South Africa," a clergyman in Pietermaritzburg said in a telephone interview Monday. "The winner could have a major, maybe even decisive voice, in deciding what sort of system replaces apartheid."

As he spoke, the sounds of disturbances outside his rectory in a black township there could be heard over the telephone.

Ten other blacks were killed, meanwhile, in armed clashes over the weekend between two Zulu clans, the Ngotshe and the Thulini, which have fought for many years over land rights near Greytown, north of the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg, according to police. Officers refused to give details of the gun battles there.

This brought to 33 the number of people reported killed in political violence in Natal since Christmas Eve. More than 260 blacks have died since August--some unofficial sources put the number at more than twice that--in the feud between Inkatha and the rival United Democratic Front.

Darkening Hopes

The government has been particularly embarrassed by the increasing violence in Natal. The area had been regarded not only as quiet, safe and almost pacified but as a region where, in efforts to work out the country's future, political accommodation between black and white and among the competing black political groups would be easiest.

But the violence, as reported by police headquarters, has become increasingly gruesome there.

Two of the victims at Pietermaritzburg were an 80-year-old woman and her great-grandson, aged 7, who were burned to death when their house was set on fire in the black township of Emafakatini. At Deda, another black ghetto, a black man was beheaded, his tongue cut out and his body mutilated in reprisal, apparently, for suspected assistance to the police as an informer.

Most of the other incidents, according to police reports, involved attacks by groups on individuals and smaller groups belonging to rival political factions.

Police, although they have almost unlimited powers under the state of emergency, appear hesitant to act in Natal. They said they intervened in only four of the 12 unrest incidents that they reported as serious threats to law and order.

Of the eight reported deaths in civil unrest, police said they were responsible for only one: a man who was fatally wounded when police opened fire with shotguns to disperse a mob in the Pietermaritzburg township of Henley Dam.

Mediation Falters

Church, community and business leaders in the Pietermaritzburg area have attempted several times in the last six months to mediate between the rival groups, but so far the talks have not even diminished the fighting, let alone brought a peaceful resolution. More talks are planned for mid-January.

On Sunday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for renewed reconciliation efforts, describing the fighting around Pietermaritzburg as a "shocking carnage" and demanding an immediate cease-fire by all political groups to permit peace talks.

Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the head of the Anglican church in southern Africa, volunteered to mediate the dispute, but his offer did not win immediate acceptance from any of the groups involved in the clashes.

"The first step towards achieving (a cease-fire and eventual peace) would be for all political leaders to make an explicit and unequivocal call on their followers to cease acts of violence forthwith," he said, "and for all involved in the peace process to avoid saying or doing anything that could prejudice the talks."

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