The ANC said for the first time Thursday that it will meet with the leader of a rival group to end black factional fighting, after ANC leader Nelson Mandela rejected government measures to halt the violence.
The statement opens the possibility of a first meeting between Mandela and Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi to seek an end to the unrest. Fighting has killed about 800 people in townships around Johannesburg since August.The battles pit Xhosas and other blacks linked to the ANC against Zulu supporters of the conservative Inkatha movement. It spread from the eastern Natal Province, the traditional Zulu homeland, where five years of clashes have killed more than 5,000 people.
On Wednesday night, high-level ANC and Inkatha delegations met in Durban to discuss the conflicts. It was the first meeting between top officials of the two black opposition movements since 1979. Another session is planned for next week.
The ANC has previously rejected direct meetings with Buthelezi. Its statement Thursday blamed combined forces of Inkatha ``vigilantes' and government security force ``elements' for the violence in Natal and the townships.
The statement said the ANC will convene a meeting of all tribal homeland leaders, including Buthelezi, to devise a way to end the violence. There was no indication when or where the meeting will be held. An ANC spokesman said Mandela will probably attend.
There was no immediate response from Inkatha. Buthelezi has previously rejected efforts by his opponents to classify him solely as a homeland chief and sought to deal with the ANC as a political equal.
The two movements are divided by differing visions of a future South Africa and strong leadership rivalries, compounded by tribal differences.
The ANC statement also reiterated calls for an independent review board to investigate complaints against police. Mandela and other black leaders have alleged that police use unnecessary force and favor Inkatha in the township fighting.
Earlier Thursday, Mandela denounced the latest government measures to quell the violence and said they could jeopardize the ANC's no-violence pledge. Speaking at a funeral for 12 people killed in the unrest, Mandela said the crackdown is intended to weaken and divide the black majority.
``There is still going to be violence in this country, and security forces are still going to continue killing and shooting our people,' he said. ``We reject (the measures) without reservation.'