Bitter Rivals Issue Call for Zulu Summit

PRETORIA, South Africa -- President Nelson Mandela and his chief black rival, Zulu nationalist leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, agreed Monday the only way to stop fighting between their supporters was to call a meeting of the Zulu nation.


The two met briefly at Mandela's residence to discuss increased attacks and clashes that have killed scores of people in recent weeks in the traditional Zulu homeland.


Most of the violence stems from political rivalry between Mandela's African National Congress and Buthelezi's Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party.


Mandela and Buthelezi told a news conference they agreed on the need for an imbizo, or traditional gathering of the Zulu nation, to allow the warring parties to air their grievances.


"The only way of resolving it is to sit down and talk,'' Mandela said. "The ANC cannot settle this matter through armed warfare.''


Buthelezi, sitting to Mandela's left, nodded vigorously.


"There have been no arguments between us as far as this matter is concerned,'' Buthelezi said. "Any effort we can make to bring about a rapprochement between ourselves and eventually peace is a noble one.''


The two men said a meeting of Zulu chiefs, called by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and attended by Mandela and Buthelezi, would be needed to set up an imbizo.


No dates were set for either the meeting of chiefs or the imbizo. Zwelithini, as king of the Zulus, is the only person authorized to call an imbizo.


Despite the conciliatory talk, conflict between the ANC and Inkatha has deep roots and complex political and social overtones that will be difficult to overcome.


Inkatha accuses the ANC of wanting to wipe it out and instill a communist-style central authority that would eliminate Zulu culture. It seeks autonomy in the Zulu homeland to resist ANC domination.


The ANC, meanwhile, believes Buthelezi and Inkatha hold autocratic power in the territory and wants to break the patronage of local chiefs to Buthelezi.


Zwelithini has been feuding with Buthelezi for the past 18 months in an attempt to break ties with the Inkatha leader and establish himself as symbolic chief of all the Zulus.


By calling an imbizo, Zwelithini would be seeking to force Zulus to choose between traditional obedience to their king or continued support for Buthelezi, who headed the former KwaZulu black homeland and has fought for Zulu rights for decades.While Buthelezi agreed Monday on the need for an imbizo, he was likely to continue pushing his demand for Zulu autonomy in the talks that would set up the king's meeting.


Tension has increased in the region in the past two weeks over local government elections scheduled for May. The voting would choose town councils and rural panels that would assume governing authority from tribal chiefs.