by Richard Chidowore
Inkatha’s last minute decision to participate in South Africa’s first all-race elections is seen as a breakthrough not only for South Africa, but for the southern African region.

The decision to contest the elections follows an agreement reached at a summit on 19 April 1994 between African National Congress CANC) President Nelson Mandela, State President F. W. de Klerk and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The leaders pledged themselves to “peace and reconciliation” in the presence of Professor Washington Okumu of Kenya, who played an important mediatory role in the process.

Central to the agreement are amendments to the constitution which ensure the security of the Zulu monarchy and stronger powers for the regions after the elections.

The landmark agreement clears the way for holding the elections — described by former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley as “one of the most important event in the 20th century” – in a relatively peaceful atmosphere.

“Relatively peaceful” because before lnkatha decided to participate, there were fears that anyone associated with the elections, including those engaged in voter education, would be violent targets of the IFP.

Earlier Buthelezi had threatened: “It is impossible for me to lie to you and reassure you that Inkatha’s opposition to fighting the election under the current constitution will not bring casualties or even death.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who has since urged his followers to renounce violence and vote, had in March called on “all Zulus to fulfil their sacred duty to defend our freedom and sovereignty to anyone in southern Africa who will dare to challenge it.”

The dramatic turn around by the Zulu King and lnkatha will now ensure the participation in the elections of a potential 3 million eligible voters in KwaZulu.

The country’s black townships, the scene for most political violence, mainly between the supporters of Inkatha and ANC have been generally calm since Buthelezi’s announcement that he will lead his party in the historic elections.

This development leaves the white right-wing groups and the “third force” as the major forces opposing the transitional process

The only parties that are now boycotting the elections are the paramilitary organizations, including the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), 5,000 of whose members invaded Bophuthatswana for several days in March in an attempt to prevent the fall of the homeland government. They were eventually dislodged by the intervention of the South African Defence Force (SADF) troops.

More than 15 bombings have been detonated on the eve of the election by suspected white extremists who are opposed to the poll. Three of the bombings killed 21 people – nine of them in central Johannesburg on 24 April while 10 were killed in Germiston and two in Pretoria the following morning.

The Independent Electoral Commission (lEC), established to manage the elections, has appealed to voters not to be intimidated by “unsubtle bomb threats coming from mere mischief makers”.

The other group that poses a threat to the smooth running of the elections is the “third force” within the South African Police (SAP) who were recently implicated in fanning township and train violence, by the Goldstone Commission.

For these reasons, thousands of international monitors are being deployed as widely as possible to try to ensure that security forces monitoring the election do not themselves commit violations against voters.

This view carries weight in light of the short training period and the problems that have been experienced in integrating various forces into a National Peacekeeping Force (NPKF), to ensure elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere.

About 3,000 troops out of the expected 10,000 have been deployed in the East Rand townships where political violence has increased in the run up to the elections.

Buthelezi’s idea of postponing the elections evaporated earlier this month when a team of international mediators, including former United States secretary of state, Henry Kissinger and former British Foreign

Secretary, Lord Carrington refused to negotiate the date of the elections.

There was, therefore, no “under-table” deal to bring the IFP into the elections as later confirmed by ANC Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa, who indicated that the IFP could not be treated with kid gloves since it was now a full participant of process. He said he would want to see Buthelezi participating in a democratic government in the new South Africa.

Addressing about 20,000 supporters in the KwaZulu capital, Ulundi, a day after announcing that he will participate in the elections, Buthelezi said he had decided to participate “in order to avoid disaster” and to “contribute to peace”.

He admitted that a win for his Zulu-based party would be a “miracle” – citing the late entry into the election race as his main handicap.

Inkatha has never been known to command support of the majority of Zulus, most of whom prefer the ANC. In various opinion polls recently carried in South Africa, Inkatha has not fared better than six percent of the electorate.

The IFP has urged its members to distribute the party’s posters and stickers, instead of participating in the planned march protests. Party workers are working overtime to try and reach as many voters as they can before the Election Day.

He said that while his participation will not completely end violence, it will reduce tension.

South Africans throughout the world went to the polls on 26 April, a day designed for voters in foreign countries and for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant and the infirm inside South Africa. More than 280,000

South Africans throughout the world are thought to have voted and 30 percent of these are elsewhere in Africa.

In the Zimbabwean capital, Harare balloting which started at 7 am, was characterised by long queues of enthusiastic voters throughout the day. A democratic South Africa is expected to play a positive role in Southern African Development Community (SADC) region where it already has bilateral trade agreements with most of the member

An ANC economist, Mfundu Nkulu, has already been appointed to the SADC secretariat to work on a programme for the accession of South Africa into the organization. Nkulu’s main task is to review the SADC programme of action leading to South Africa’s admittance into the regional body, which it is expected to join at the next summit in Arusha, Tanzania in August.

The SADC Executive Secretary, Kaire Mbuende says Nkulu’s appointment is not political “since we see him as South African… But in the South African situation, it should be understood that it is difficult to appoint qualified people who are not affiliated to any political party”. (SARDC)

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