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Black violence grips S. African province. Conflict highlights political divisions within the black community

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One of South Africa's most bitter political confrontations is pitting two rival black groups against one another in what observers say is a turf battle over traditional Zulu strongholds in Natal Province. Fighting between followers of Inkatha, a Zulu tribal organization, and the United Democratic Front (UDF), an anti-apartheid coalition, has raged around Pietermaritzburg, the provincial capital, for several weeks. Although about 100 people have died in the past two months, violence has seriously escalated this week, leaving at least 14 people dead in the last few days.

Observers say the fighting underscores divisions within the black population. Specifically, it highlights the conflict between conservative and more radical forces within the Zulu population.

UDF supporters are seen as challenging Inkatha dominance in Natal Province by trying to establish a stronghold in community organizations. In addition, tensions are being heightened by squatters who have moved in from economically depressed areas.

Although both groups claim to be national liberation movements, their political complexions differ greatly. Inkatha, founded as a Zulu cultural movement, has a large following based mostly on tribal affiliation. The UDF characterizes it and its president, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as ``government stooges'' because they oppose international sanctions against South Africa and advocate non-violence in the fight against apartheid.

The multiracial UDF is more powerful in other South African provinces and is building a strong base among black trade unions, youth groups, and other local organizations. Many conservative Zulus see it as a threat to traditional tribal structures and thus resent its ``trespassing'' in Natal. The UDF is closely identified with the outlawed African National Congress (ANC). The South African government considers the UDF radical, dangerous, and a front for the ANC.


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