Peace talks could take place in the next 10 days between Inkatha, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) if agreement can be reached on a venue. Following a letter to Inkatha from Cosatu and UDF leaders this week, urging an urgent meeting between the organisations, Inkatha president Mangosuthu Buthelezi yesterday suggested they should meet on May 20 in Ulundi. There are indications that Cosatu and the UDF find the date acceptable but would prefer another venue.
However given the commitment by all three parties to the peace process, it is unlikely that the question of venue will prove to be a major obstacle. It is understood that Ulundi may have been suggested as a meeting place because the kwaZulu Legislative Assembly is in session and is already behind schedule. Buthelezi’s invitation came in a week which saw a number of significant developments in the bid to set a Natal peace initiative in motion. Earlier in the week, peace prospects were given a major boost when the African National Congress agreed to play whatever role was decided by the other parties to the peace process.
Another significant development was a letter by Cosatu and the UDF to Inkatha proposing an urgent meeting of all three parties. They made it clear they believed the need for a successful peace initiative was now “absolutely critical” and stressed they were prepared to meet as a matter of urgency at any “mutually acceptable venue”.
In an unexpected intervention, the ANC, through its department of information and publicity (DIP), has given the organisation’s clearest backing yet to a peace initiative. The DIP said the organisation supported the call “to convene a meeting of Cosatu, Inkatha and UDF affiliates to work out the practical mechanisms relating to the achievement of peace. “Such a meeting among the three organisations will help to harmonise their initiatives and set the whole process in motion. “One issue high on the agenda of any initial talks between Inkatha and the affiliates of Cosatu and the UDF will be the possible participation of the ANC in the peace process. The ANC has made it clear that it is prepared to play “as direct a role as it possibly can given the conditions under which it has to operate”. This role, however, will have to be defined “jointly by the forces operating openly on the ground, in particular UDF affiliates, lnkatha and Cosatu”.
The ANC also particularly thanked Catholic Archbishop Denis Hurley and other “eminent persons” who initiated the latest round of consultations. The unequivocally pro-peace ANC statement follows the similarly conciliatory letter to lnkatha from Cosatu and UDF affiliates. However, Cosatu also said that it had decided to suspend the submission of complaints to the adjudication board, set up by lnkatha and Cosatu last year as a mechanism to deal with allegations of violence from either side. Dealing with the question of the peace initiative, the letter, distributed to members of the kwaZulu Legislative Assembly by Buthelezi, noted that Cosatu and the UDF had no objections in principle to Inkatha’s peace proposals. They suggested an urgent meeting between delegations of Cosatu, the UDF and Inkatha.
The letter continued: ”Time is of the essence and these issues cannot be dealt with in an exchange of correspondence or through the press.” It concluded: “A face-to-face meeting will in our view advance our common commitment to ending the violence in Natal.”
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.