ULUNDI, South Africa -- With reform talks in tatters and tensions rising, this country is now on the verge of civil war, according to Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.
The black pro-government leader, whose Inkatha Freedom Party has been locked in violent conflict with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, said yesterday that the decision of the ANC to withdraw from negotiations to end apartheid could lead only to more bloodshed.
"I think it is very dangerous," Mr. Buthelezi, 63, said in an interview in his office here in the capital of KwaZulu, the black homeland set aside by the government for his tribe, of which he is chief minister. "I feel we might land in a civil war if we are not careful."
Apocalyptic visions have in recent days dominated political discourse in South Africa, since the ANC, the country's largest black group, severed direct contacts with the white minority government. The ANC said that, despite protestations to the contrary, the government was not prepared to accept majority rule. It also accused security agencies of direct involvement in the country's continuing violence, in which more than 14,000 people have been killed since the mid-1980s.
The ANC's pullout was triggered by the June 17 Boipatong massacre in which at least 42 people were killed in the Vaal
black township, allegedly by Inkatha activists and white police. The incident fired great anger among many blacks and effectively forced the ANC to abandon talks. Inkatha has denied any involvement in the massacre.
President Frederik W. de Klerk also rejects the allegations, saying that violence was primarily "black-on-black," despite persistent allegations and occasional proven incidents of police and government involvement. He has met the ANC's plans for a "mass action" campaign with threats of reimposition of a state of emergency, which Mandela has personally pledged to defy.
Yesterday, a judge appointed to investigate the township violence castigated the groups accusing President De Klerk of direct complicity in the bloodshed, saying the charges are unsubstantiated and inflammatory.
The ANC criticized the judge's findings.