In a significant concession, the African National Congress (ANC) announced Monday that Nelson Mandela will soon meet with Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi in the latter's capacity as leader of the Zulu political movement Inkatha. The decision significantly advances Buthelezi's claim to participate as a full partner, along with the congress, in constitutional talks with the government.
Previously, Mandela declined to see the Inkatha leader, then last month he said he would do so, but only at a meeting of black homeland leaders.
Buthelezi refused to attend the meeting on Oct. 5 on the ground that he should be accepted as head of a new political party organized by Inkatha and not as chief minister of KwaZulu, the Zulu homeland created by Pretoria.
The announcement Monday emerged from a meeting of the ANC's National Executive Committee. It affirmed a new readiness to end the violent feud between ANC supporters and Inkatha that has contributed to 4,000 deaths in Natal province in the last four years and nearly 800 around Johannesburg since August.
It appeared that the ANC decided to make peace with Inkatha to avoid more bloodletting and end the divisions that have set into black politics.
The congress may also have been trying to pre-empt the call Friday by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu for a meeting of black leaders to resolve differences and to form a united front for the discussions with the government.
Exploratory talks have taken place in Durban between officials of the congress and Inkatha.
Monday's announcement by the ANC said it had decided that "a meeting between the National Executive Committees of the ANC and the Central Committee of the Inkatha Freedom Party be held in the near future, with the participation of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Nelson Mandela, to strengthen the efforts aimed at ending the violence."
Mandela did not attend the ANC's leadership meeting Monday because he is traveling in Asia. But the decision seemed certain to have been cleared with him beforehand.
Buthelezi issued a statement Monday night saying that the congress had not yet told Inkatha of the proposed meeting but implying that he would accept.
Once Inkatha was officially informed, he said, it would begin considering a date and place.
Although Buthelezi has said that the ANC encouraged him to found Inkatha as an ally in the struggle against apartheid, the two organizations have sharply differed over strategies for ending white minority rule.
Inkatha has opposed both the armed struggle long advocated by the ANC and recently suspended and the ANC's call for economic sanctions against Pretoria.
Some followers of the two organizations have waged a struggle for political control of their communities. Until recently, ANC officials had blamed Buthelezi for the violence; now it accuses the government of tolerating a sinister third force of whites fomenting friction among blacks.
The ANC has won pledges of support from most leaders of the four nominally independent and six self-governing ethnic homelands created by Pretoria; only Buthelezi of KwaZulu and Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana have held out.
On Sunday, the ANC received a further boost when Tom Boya, mayor of the black township of Daveyton outside Johannesburg, resigned all his public posts. He was also president of the United Municipalities of South Africa, an organization of black municipal officials recognized by Pretoria.
The anti-apartheid movement had been pressing Boya to step down and thus undercut the credibility of the segregated black municipalities. Boya, who made the announcement at a Sunday rally in Daveyton, refused to comment on his political affiliations but said he wanted to be "on the right side" in the coming negotiations. This suggested that he, too, would support the ANC.