PIETERMARITZBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, JULY 1 -- The African National Congress and its allies have called for a one-day nationwide strike aimed at destroying a rival black group, a tactic that has split the nationalist movement and caused the government in Pretoria to mobilize the army and police to head off possible violent confrontations.
Monday's "stayaway," as a strike is called here, will kick off a week of rallies, marches and other demonstrations aimed at getting the South African government to strip Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi of his powers. Buthelezi is chief minister of the nominally self-governed Kwazulu homeland, located within Natal province. He also is president of the Zulu-based Inkatha Movement, a black anti-apartheid organization involved in conflicts with an ANC-backed group in Natal that have claimed more than 3,000 lives since 1987.
The weeklong protest is being watched closely by the South African government and foreign embassies because it constitutes the first real test of the relative strengths and popularity in the black community of all anti-apartheid groups since they were legalized in early February.
The ANC -- along with the most powerful black labor union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and all the other pro-ANC factions grouped under the umbrella United Democratic Front -- is mounting the campaign with the slogan, "Stop Apartheid's War." Those organizations want to dismantle homelands such as Kwazulu, which were created by the government to remove millions of blacks from South Africa proper, because they are a product of the apartheid system of racial separation. They blame Buthelezi for the deadly fighting in Natal.
The strike organizers are demanding that President Frederik W. de Klerk's government disarm Buthelezi's police force, arrest his "warlords," dismantle the Kwazulu homeland, withdraw the army from Natal and end the state of emergency that has been in effect there since 1986.
"Let de Klerk stop this senseless war if he is serious about peace," says an ANC leaflet calling for Buthelezi's isolation.
But the Pan-Africanist Congress ; its ally, the National Council of Trade Unions; and the Aazanian People's Organization have refused to go along with the weeklong protest and have called upon their supporters to ignore the strike. Those groups are not perceived as having the breadth of support within the black community as the pro-ANC groups have, but no one is certain how blacks viewed as less politically active will react to the strike call.
"We cannot lend our support to any campaign from any quarters should the outcome thereof be divisions and further violent clashes amongst the oppressed or if it leads to a misdirection of the struggle away from the principal enemy," said PAC Secretary General Benny Alexander at a press conference last week.
Alexander called on ANC leader Nelson Mandela to meet with Buthelezi to reconcile their differences and offered the PAC's good offices to help mediate the feud.
The government is clearly worried about possible "violent clashes" as well. Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok issued a statement Friday saying the police and army will be "out in full force" Monday to ensure the safety of all people wishing to go to work.
The South African Council of Churches is also concerned about serious inter-factional fighting and has come out with a "code of conduct" asking all sides to respect the principle of "freedom of choice" so that those wishing to work are able to do so without interference.