PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, AUG. 21 -- Black leaders met today with President Frederik W. de Klerk amid signs that a wave of violence in South Africa's black townships may be subsiding after taking more than 400 lives in the past nine days.
Although the situation remained tense in townships near Johannesburg where the fighting has been most intense, police reported that the region was largely quiet today. A clash occurred this evening, however, in the township of Kwathema, about 35 miles east of Johannesburg, where at least two people were reported killed.
The fighting has mostly involved Zulu tribal supporters of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress and backers of Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's rival Inkatha movement, and today de Klerk met with Buthelezi and Maj. Gen. Harrington Bantubonke Holomisa, leader of Transkei, one of South Africa's segregated black homelands.
Holomisa has been broadly supportive of the ANC, the main black nationalist group opposing white-minority rule, and many people from his homeland have been caught up in the violence.
Buthelezi and Holomisa also held a meeting today in the presence of Foreign Minister Roelof F. Botha and Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok. Afterward, they issued a joint statement urging all political leaders to work for peace and to end the "war of words" that the statement said has often been interpreted by their followers as a license for violence.
Shortly after the statement was issued, however, Holomisa and Buthelezi engaged in another bout of verbal warfare, with the Transkei leader accusing police of aiding Inkatha in violent attacks on "helpless victims." In an angry response, Buthelezi accused Holomisa of political ineptitude and blamed the ANC for the violence.
Buthelezi repeated his demand for a meeting with Nelson Mandela, the ANC deputy president, saying there can be no peace until such a meeting takes place.
"People are actually dying because the ANC will not talk with Inkatha and Mandela will not talk with me," Buthelezi said, rejecting what he described as efforts to brush aside his movement. "The ANC must admit there is an actor called Inkatha," he said.
There are no signs, however, that such a meeting will take place. Mandela met with de Klerk and Vlok on Thursday to discuss the violence, but the ANC has opposed a meeting with Buthelezi. It has contended that Buthelezi is seeking such a meeting to boost his flagging credibility among blacks. Recent opinion polls have indicated that Buthelezi has only 2 percent support outside his home base of Natal province, where the violence began, compared with the ANC's 84 percent.
Holomisa urged the government to restore peace by issuing strict orders to police to act impartially and by disarming all potential combatants. He called on Mandela and Buthelezi to order their followers to stop the violence and to arrange meetings by lower-echelon leaders to ensure that their orders are obeyed.
Vlok, in a statement, accused Holomisa of making unsubstantiated allegations about police bias. "Unless these serious allegations are backed by evidence, one must accept that they are lies and that the sole aim of making such statements is to alienate the police," Vlok said.