African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi led separate peace missions Wednesday to the violence-wracked black township of Thokoza. Buthelezi was greeted warmly, but Mandela was turned away with scorn.
Buthelezi, the leader of Inkatha and the Zulu homelands of Natal province, arrived first aboard a helicopter and toured the township east of Johannesburg aboard a police armored personnel carrier, appealing to his supporters to lay down their weapons. "We cannot fight our way into democracy or a new South Africa," he said.Hundreds of Zulus carrying spears, clubs and other homemade and traditional weapons turned out to cheer Buthelezi, who was accompanied by Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok.
Mandela's delegation arrived later, also seeking to head off the black-on-black violence in which 52 people were killed Tuesday. When the group rode in aboard a bus, it was confronted by about 100 Buthelezi backers outside a migrant worker hostel.
The Zulus, some carrying homemade spears, waved Mandela's group away. One woman raised her skirt in disgust at the presence of the ANC leader and others in the crowd waved placards reading "Away, Mandela."
Mandela, a member of the Xhosa tribe, was unharmed and a heavy police presence helped avert a more serious confrontation.
As the vehicles in the motorcade drove off, the Zulu men and women danced and sang in glee.
Buthelezi and Mandela arranged separate visits because they have been unable to overcome their political differences and appear in public together.
Police said 52 people died in and around the township Tuesday in one of the bloodiest days of black factional fighting this year. At least 83 people have died in the area since Friday in an extension of urban violence that exploded in townships around Johannesburg in August between Zulus of the movement Inkatha and mainly Xhosa supporters of the ANC.
Since Mandela's release after 27 years' imprisonment, Buthelezi has called for face-to-face talks, but the ANC has so far refused, fearing such a meeting would lend Buthelezi political credibility.
The separate peace missions Wednesday followed talks in the township on Tuesday afternoon between officials of the ANC and Inkatha under police mediation. The delegates agreed to work for peace in the area and in a joint statement appealed to their followers to respect "political tolerance."