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Call for Zulu Kingdom Raises Ante in South Africa

The king's demands could destabilize the April elections and threaten South Africa's transition to democracy

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THE demand by the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, on Feb. 14 for an independent and sovereign Zulu kingdom has caused alarm in diplomatic and political circles.

His ultimatum raises questions about the long-term objectives of Inkatha Freedom Party leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who has called for a boycott of the elections unless Zulu demands for autonomy are met.

``I fear that the king's bottom line is an independent kingdom like Swaziland,'' a concerned Western diplomat says. ``That is a malicious demand which is designed to inflict maximum damage on the fragile transition to democracy.''

Recent opinion polls conducted by private pollsters indicate that the majority of Zulus want to take part in the election and would resist traditional Zulu rule.

The polls suggest that most Zulus support the African National Congress (ANC) and that Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha Party would win only 25 percent of the vote in Natal.

Buthelezi is dependent on funds from Pretoria to run the administrative machinery of KwaZulu, the Zulu homeland, and has neither the security forces nor independent sources of revenue to run a Zulu state.

Attempts at accommodation

President Frederik de Klerk played down King Goodwill's demands following a meeting in Durban on Feb. 14 in which the king hinted strongly at secession rather than accepting a constitution that denied Zulu autonomy.

But a government official concedes that the two leaders had talked past each other. ``They were broadcasting on completely different wave bands,'' one official says. ``Rational debate doesn't seem to be the way to go.... You can't reason with them.''

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