United Democratic Front leaders in Pietermaritzburg say they cannot hold out any promise of an end to the violence in the local townships until their detained members are released.
However, AS Chetty, who chairs the Natal Midlands branch of the UDF, said it was possible that "ripple effects" of this week's initial talks between Inkatha/United Workers' Union of South Africa and the UDF/Congress of South African Trade Unions could filter down and help calm tempers in the townships. Chetty said their detained members were figures in the townships. "At the meeting we, jointly with Inkatha, made a very heavy demand that these members be released."
Chetty was one of a group of local leaders whose organisations are involved in the violence. Their first round of talks this week was chaired by officials of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce. Following the meeting, an official statement was released by the chamber, as all parties had agreed not to make independent statements.
Chamber officials said the parties had agreed to a joint can for the release from detention of members of the organisations which are party to the talks. They also agreed with the principle that the groups should be able to meet their constituencies without interference from the security forces. All involved endorsed the "principles of freedom of expression" and agreed to take disciplinary action against members who violated this.
While there were issues on which agreement was not reached, Chamber officials said they were optimistic about the progress that was made and a date has been set for the next talks. However, in spite of this optimism the violence and killings have continued, with official reports of four deaths since Tuesday.
Youths are still living in church and community halls in and around Durban after fleeing their homes earlier this month to escape the violence. At one stage there were over 120 youngsters – some of them only 11 – who fled their homes, saying they feared for their lives because of threats by Inkatha.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.