EDENDALE, South Africa — This country's most powerful black leaders, Nelson R. Mandela and Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, agreed Thursday to meet to try to stop factional fighting that has claimed up to 30 lives in a few days.
The meeting, scheduled for Monday, is aimed at ending chronic fighting in Natal province between groups linked to Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) and Buthelezi's Zulu-based Inkatha movement.
The clashes threaten the budding peace process between the South African government and the disfranchised black majority, launched last month by reformist President Frederik W. de Klerk.
"Surely we have reached the stage where the elimination of violence can and must be put above party political violence," Buthelezi said after announcing the landmark meeting with his former comrade-in-arms Mandela.
Journalists covering the latest upsurge in the "Zulu Wars," which have claimed more than 2,000 lives in the last three years, reported that eight more bodies were found Thursday in a black township outside the Natal capital of Pietermaritzburg.
That brings to about 30 the number of black youths killed since Tuesday in running battles between Inkatha and supporters of the ANC-allied United Democratic Front (UDF).
Meanwhile, about 5,000 black union members marched through Johannesburg to protest government plans to privatize hospitals, transportation and other public facilities. And in Pretoria, a similar march of about 2,000 workers was broken up by police, who arrested 39 people.
Two days of violence in Natal province included the biggest battle between the two sides since they took up arms over their differences on how to end white minority rule.
The meeting between Mandela and Buthelezi will be their first since Mandela was released from prison last month. They served the anti-apartheid struggle together until Buthelezi left the ANC over its change of policy to support violence.
The two leaders are expected to address a rally at the township of Taylor's Halt, one of Natal's worst trouble spots.
Tension remained high in Natal villages shattered in the latest flare-up of fighting. Armored cars carrying police and helmeted peacekeeping troops moved through rubble-strewn villages around Edendale, scene of some of the worst violence.
Black gangs with guns, large knives and spears watched from hills, but made no move to attack each other or the security patrols.
The government said it will quell any township unrest and that it is determined to press ahead with its reform program to give voteless blacks political rights and end apartheid racial segregation.
The Natal fighting has coincided with a nationwide wave of unrest in which up to 400 people have been killed in black townships and tribal homelands.