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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zulu King Demands an Independent Nation

DURBAN, South Africa -- The king of the Zulus demanded independence Monday, saying he and his people could not live under the constitution drafted in talks led by the African National Congress and the government.

"I demand that you give the Zulu nation the opportunity to become free once again and to choose their own destiny for themselves," the king told a crowd of 15,000 Zulus in the northeast port city of Durban.

King Goodwill Zwelithini's hardline stance goes beyond previous calls by Zulu leaders for limited autonomy.

The king's public call on Monday follows a decision by the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party to boycott the country's first all race elections April 26-28, and warnings from Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi that the violence that has marred South Africa's transition would increase.

"I sincerely hope the call by his majesty has sent shock waves of reality in the direction of the South African government and the ANC," Buthelezi told the rally. He had previously demanded that KwaZulu retain the autonomy it enjoyed under apartheid.

Buthelezi formed the Freedom Alliance with right-wing whites who share his fears of ANC domination following the April vote. The ANC is the overwhelming favorite to win the elections.

On Sunday, Buthelezi told his followers that Inkatha's decision to sit out the voting will lead to heightened violence.

"It is impossible for me to lie to you and reassure you that the IFP's opposition to fighting the election ... will not bring casualties and even death," he told more than 8,000 members of the Inkatha youth wing gathered in the northeast town of Empangeni.

Last year, more than 3,000 black South Africans were killed in political violence, most stemming from rivalry between the ANC and the Inkatha.

Months of talks involving the Freedom Alliance, the government and the ANC deadlocked last week over how much power regional governments would have under a new constitution.

Zwelithini was due to meet President F.W. de Klerk on Monday to restart the negotiations.

Zwelithini is demanding a constitution establishing an independent Zulu monarchy and the return of the Zulu nation based on its 1834 borders. Zululand once embraced much of northern Natal, but the KwaZulu homeland is scattered across the northeastern province.

The ANC, which enjoys wide black support -- even among Zulus -- opposes setting up territories on the basis of race or tribe. Under apartheid, the homelands were established to deny blacks citizenship in South Africa.