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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inkatha Chief Rejects Concessions by ANC

JOHANNESBURG -- The leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party rejected an olive branch from the rival ANC on Thursday, calling it "utter hypocrisy" and dimming hopes for a deal to avert a boycott of April's national election.

A spokesman for the opposition Freedom Alliance, which includes Inkatha, expressed optimism over the ANC proposals announced Wednesday night. But Inkatha is the largest member of the alliance, and it was doubtful the coalition could accept any deal without approval from Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Nelson Mandela, president of the ANC told a news conference the ANC had dropped its demand for a single-ballot system in the April 26-28 election to end white minority rule, and he called for multiparty negotiations to be reconvened next week if possible to approve the decision.

This marks an important concession to the anti-ANC alliance, whose vows to boycott the election have raised fears of violence during the campaign and after the vote. The alliance has said voters should cast two ballots in April -- one for a national parliament and another for regional legislatures.

This would give small, regionally based parties such as those in the alliance a chance of establishing power bases in their areas of support.

But Buthelezi said Mandela's statements failed to address Inkatha's opposition to the election plan, whereby voters would choose a government with the task of drafting a permanent constitution to replace the interim one.

"Mr. Mandela's statement amounts to no more than cheap politicking on life and death issues," he said.

Inkatha opposes the idea of an interim constitution because it fears any amendments to the document it suggest s would be scrapped when the new government -- likely to be ANC-led -- drafts a permanent constitution. Inkatha says a constitution, guaranteeing regional autonomy for its Zulu followers, should be ratified before the poll.

A Freedom Alliance spokesman, Rowan Cronje, was more optimistic after Mandela's statement.

"I think that is a very hopeful sign," he said.