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Sunday, October 08, 2006

S.Africa's Buthelezi warns against ethnic war

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of South Africa's largest black opposition party, has warned an ethnic war could be started by supporters of former deputy president Jacob Zuma complaining of an anti-Zulu conspiracy.

South African President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma, a Zulu, last year after he was implicated in a corruption scandal, but the charges were thrown out of court last month.

His supporters say there has been a conspiracy to deny the presidency to Zuma, who was acquitted in May on separate charges of raping an
HIV-positive family friend.

Buthelezi was quoted by Sunday newspapers as warning Zuma's supporters against persistently alleging a conspiracy against Zulus "in the absence of evidence to support such an allegation."

"This is playing with fire because Africa is sick and tired of ethnic wars, as we can see in Darfur, Sudan. Bandying about this kind of allegation is most dangerous for us as a country and as one South African nation. It can start an ethnic conflict that we do not need," the Sunday Times quoted him as saying.

Buthelezi was quoted as making the comments on Saturday during the annual conference of his Inkatha Freedom Party.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which held a national executive meeting at the weekend, agreed with Buthelezi's sentiments.

"Definitely as the ANC we are concerned about any issue which seeks to invoke tribalism, ethnicity or even racism ... we know what such things do to many countries in the world," ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said when asked about Buthelezi's comments.

Buthelezi's KwaZulu-Natal province was the scene of some of the worst political violence as South Africa struggled toward an end to white-minority rule in 1994, when President Nelson Mandela's ANC was voted into power in historic all-race elections.

Up to 20,000 people were killed in a vicious cycle of violence between Inkatha and the ANC. The security forces were seen as siding with and arming Buthelezi's party, according to findings by the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that probed human rights abuses by all sides under apartheid.
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