JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- After years of deadly political conflict, South Africa's KwaZulu/Natal Province held its first free local elections last week, and now that the votes have finally been counted, it appears that the province's archrivals have neither gained nor lost much ground.
As in the first post-apartheid general election in 1994, the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi swept the province's vast rural areas. President Nelson Mandela's African National Congress triumphed in the cities and suburbs.
Inkatha won 562 of the seats at stake, compared with ANC's 514.
Voting percentages were more lopsided, with Inkatha taking 44.5 percent and the ANC 33.2 percent.
Inkatha seemed to have lost ground among urban white and Indian voters, to independent candidates and to the National Party, which had 187 seats and 12.7 percent of the vote, up from 11.2 percent two years ago.
The National Party, led by former President F. W. de Klerk, was jubilant over the result. De Klerk said the vote set the stage "for a major realignment in South Africa's politics."
He recently quit his vice president's post in a coalition government to try remaking the National Party, which imposed apartheid and then began the process of dismantling it, into a new nonracial party stressing "family values," opposing abortion and favoring the death penalty.
But the real battle in the province was between the ANC and Inkatha. Inkatha is politically strong only in this province.
An estimated 14,000 people have been killed in tribe-based warfare over the past decade.
Voter turnout was only 44 percent, a figure attributed to the reduced interest that hinders local elections everywhere.
Turnout was particularly low among the poorest and least educated, tending to cut deeper into support for Inkatha.
Pub Date: 7/03/96