Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Three political workers killed in South Africa

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

With South Africa's national elections only days away, the killings of three political workers in KwaZulu-Natal Province this weekend have heightened concerns that a longtime struggle for power there may bubble over into further strife.

But political officials there all but ruled out the prospect of widespread violence like that of the early 1990s, when political warfare claimed thousands of lives -- or even like that just before the 1999 elections, when perhaps 200 died.

The political workers who died -- two from the African National Congress (ANC), one from the rival Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) -- were killed in two separate attacks on Good Friday, a national holiday here. The two ANC workers and two other party workers were abducted as they left a church in Mqedandaba, about 145km northwest of Durban. One man escaped with injuries, and a second remains missing.

One IFP worker was killed in an apparently unrelated incident on Friday elsewhere in the province, the third such death in two weeks.

At least 10 party workers from both parties have died this year in what are widely assumed to be politically motivated attacks.

The ANC is locked in a bitter fight with the IFP for political dominance of KwaZulu-Natal, the only one of South Africa's nine provinces not under ANC control. The IFP has broad support among Zulus in the province's rural areas, while the Xhosa-dominated ANC holds a majority in Durban, the biggest city. With far more money and control of the national government, the ANC has undertaken an all-out effort to dislodge the Inkatha majority, sending President Thabo Mbeki and his Zulu deputy president, Jacob Zuma, to campaign there.

In the province's predominantly Zulu region not far from the scene of Friday's killings of the ANC workers, Mbeki told an ANC rally on Saturday that security would be tightened for Wednesday's vote.

"We must allow everybody in the country to decide who to vote for without fear of being killed or their houses being burned down," he said.

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