JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- With only two weeks until this country's first all-race elections, a private business group announced that seven foreign jurists, academics and diplomats would arrive today to try to mediate a last-minute solution to a constitutional impasse over battle-racked Natal Province.
The group will begin meeting tomorrow with leaders of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, which is expected to win the elections, and Zulu Chief Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, which is seeking to delay the elections as part of its militant campaign for greater provincial autonomy and an independent Zulu state in Natal.
The mediation group includes former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., a retired chief judge emeritus of the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said both men were coming here as private citizens and not as Clinton administration envoys.
Mr. Buthelezi first proposed using international mediation in March to bridge his dispute with the ANC. But the announcement yesterday by the Consultative Business Movement, a private group of South African business leaders who have sought since the 1980s to foster political change, appeared to catch both the ANC and the government by surprise.
"We received information this afternoon that the mediators would be arriving tomorrow," said ANC spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa. He said the mediation would not affect the April 26-28 election. "Those dates are sacrosanct."
The government of President F. W. de Klerk was also notified yesterday, said spokesman Richard Carter. He said government officials will meet with the group but had not been involved with setting up its mission.
The other members of the mediation group are: Lord Carrington, former British foreign minister; Prafulla C. Bhagwati, former chief justice of India; Prof. Paul Kevenhorster, a constitutional expert at the University of Muenster in Germany; Antonio La Pergola, an Italian judge to the European Court of Justice; and Jean Antonie Laponce, a professor at the University of British Columbia.