JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Hundreds of Zulus armed with spears and clubs rampaged through a squatter camp at dawn Sunday, hacking and burning to death at least 25 people and wounding dozens.
Police and survivors said the Zulus swarmed through the camp of wooden and cardboard shacks, clubbing and stabbing men and setting fire to about 80 hovels. Many of the victims were set on fire, police said.
The raid was the latest blow to the government's bid to stop endemic violence between the mainly Zulu Inkatha Party and its anti-apartheid rival, the African National Congress, and ensure a peaceful transition from apartheid rule.
"This is the new South Africa, and look how we are dying," sobbed a woman who survived the attack. She said most residents were sleeping when the attack began.
"They killed everything they could see, even dogs. It was a pure slaughter," said one tearful woman, standing beside smoldering remains of her tin hut.
Blanket-covered bodies, many charred and badly hacked, lay strewn around the camp after the attack.
Stunned residents, some mourning the loss of husbands, wives or children, gathered what was left of their belongings and trudged over the fields to safety.
"I don't know where I'm going, but I can't stay here. It is finished," one said.
The attack in the black township of Kagiso outside Johannesburg was one of the worst in months. It came at a time when the government and the African National Congress are stalemated over growing violence in black townships.
Black factional fighting pits mostly supporters of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Party against the ANC. The two black groups oppose apartheid but are divided by deep tribal and ideological differences.
Survivors of Sunday's attack said the Zulus wore red headbands, the traditional Inkatha badge.
Police Maj. Ray Harrald said that about 1,000 Zulus from a workers' hostel in Kagiso attacked the nearby Swaniesville squatter camp, stabbing and beating residents and setting fire to shacks.
Police in armored vehicles rushed to the area and separated the Zulus and the squatters, Harrald said. The Zulus were shepherded back to the hostel by police, he said.
Some residents said there was an attack last weekend on the Zulu hostel, suggesting that Sunday's attack was in revenge. Police said they had no idea what started Sunday's fighting.
Hundreds of people have been killed since August in gun, spear and ax battles for supremacy between the rival movements in Johannesburg's townships.
The ANC has threatened to pull out of power-sharing talks with reformist President Frederik W. de Klerk unless the government ends the carnage.
The government responded last week to the ANC's threat by stepping up police and army patrols in the worst-hit townships and banning the carrying of weapons except the traditional symbols of Zulu manhood--clubs, spears and shields.
The exception outraged the ANC, whose supporters have regularly been attacked by Zulu supporters of Inkatha brandishing such weapons.
Swaniesville residents said many gang members were armed with AK-47 rifles despite the government ban.
ANC leader Nelson Mandela earlier denounced the government for excluding Zulu cultural weapons from the ban.
"When the government says, 'We are not going to ban these because they are cultural weapons,' your attitude of course becomes one of outrage, one of revulsion," he told the Johannesburg Sunday Times newspaper.
But he said that, despite the violence, he remains optimistic that a negotiated settlement can be reached with the government. "We, as the ANC, started these discussions, and we are determined to see them succeed," he said.