- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, South Africa's Zulu chief and leader of the free-market-oriented Inkatha Freedom Party, says he approves of the post-apartheid development efforts of the ruling African National Congress.

But he said he remains deeply skeptical of the ANC's political allies, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the powerful labor federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

"I am satisfied with President Thabo Mbeki's leadership of the nation and his support for free-market institutions," Mr. Buthelezi said in an interview last week. "It is the ANC's allies, the communists and the labor unions, that pose the problems of the new South Africa.

"As a person with a lifelong commitment to free institutions, I cannot help but be suspicious of groups with other aims," he said.

Mr. Buthelezi was in Washington to receive the newly created "Courage Under Fire Award" of the American Conservative Union at last week's 28th annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Zulu leader has been a controversial figure throughout his career, working with white South Africans to strengthen the role of the Zulu people in his country while at the same time rejecting the idea of powerless black homelands the apartheid government was trying to create.

"Because of that, I was caught in a cross fire," Mr. Buthelezi told an audience of more than 1,000 at the annual ACU dinner Friday night.

"On the one hand, I was attacked by the apartheid government, against which I turned its own creations [the homelands]," he said.

"On the other hand, I was targeted by others in the liberation struggle who pursued the impossible dream of toppling apartheid through unrealistic military actions and widespread violence, rebellion and negotiation."

In the end, the ANC and the ruling National Party negotiated a transfer of political power, then extended an invitation to Mr. Buthelezi to join what was described as a "nonracial" government.

Since 1994, Mr. Buthelezi has served as minister of home affairs, the third-most-important position in the black-led South African government.

One incident in his stewardship reveals how powerful a post he holds. In 1998, when President Nelson Mandela and his deputy, Mr. Mbeki, were out of the country, he ordered South African troops into the independent state of Lesotho to quell a rebellion there. It was the only time under ANC rule that South African troops have been deployed outside the country.

The closeness of the South African Communist Party to the ANC dates from the early 1960s, when it started cooperating closely with the ANC's armed movement. Joe Slovo, the party's general secretary, served for a time as chief of staff of ANC's military wing.

During apartheid, COSATU began a series of devastating strikes against the mining industry, which weakened the South African economy and was a factor in its decision to turn to a negotiated settlement.

More recently, the 1.8 million-member organization is waging a fight against globalization and has staged mass actions to protest the loss of 500,000 jobs in the country since the ANC took office in 1994.

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