CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Cries of "cover-up" and "murder" rang out in the South African Parliament yesterday as President Nelson Mandela came under fire for his role in the deaths of eight people outside the headquarters of the African National Congress before last year's national elections.
Members of Parliament were debating Mr. Mandela's admission last week that he had ordered ANC security guards to kill if necessary in order to protect the ANC building in Johannesburg, when thousands of Zulus filled the downtown streets in an anti-election demonstration.
The debate occurred as tensions are once again rising in the province of KwaZulu/Natal, the homeland of most members of the country's Zulu tribe.
Members of the ANC and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party have fought each other there for a decade, including pitched battles until Inkatha's last-minute decision to take part in last year's elections.
With the country's first democratic local government vote scheduled for November, and with Inkatha once again threatening a boycott, the death rate in Natal has been rising.
Mr. Mandela had agreed to yesterday's debate but found few friends outside of his own party, the ANC.
He was attacked by leaders of the National Party, the Democratic Party, the Pan Africanist Congress and the African Christian Democratic Party.
Most speeches by Inkatha members were tame in comparison.
"What you have to remember about Watergate is that it is not the crime of burglary that is remembered, it is the cover-up that followed," said Tony Leon, head of the Democratic Party.
He accused Mr. Mandela and the ANC of obstructing a police investigation of the killings and called for an independent judicial commission to investigate.
The ANC has claimed that its security forces were defending party headquarters when they shot the Zulu demonstrators.
But, Mr. Leon asked, if that were the case, why were the dead all on a side street, not by the building's entrance?
Mr. Mandela opened the debate by stating that the incident at Shell House, as the building is known, "did not come out of the blue."
He described the years of enmity between the ANC and Inkatha DTC and accused Inkatha of joining with the ruling National Party to oppose anti-apartheid forces, suggesting that their collusion had kept police from protecting Shell House during the march.
"There were 47 other people who died that day," Mr. Mandela pointed out, asking why all the focus was on the eight who were killed at the ANC building.
The debate came after an inconclusive session of the Cabinet that discussed the problem of violence in KwaZulu/Natal.