JOHANNESBURG, DEC. 12 -- About 100 Zulus, some carrying homemade weapons, turned angrily on African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and other dignitaries today and forced them to retreat to safety when they visited a migrant workers' hostel in Tokoza township during a tour of trouble spots in the Johannesburg area.
The hostel-dwellers, supporters of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, pounded their fists on the dignitaries' vehicles, waved placards denouncing the ANC and yelled abuse at Mandela. He scrambled into his car and withdrew from the scene with other members of the group of about 70 political, church and business leaders and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador William Swing.
The ANC leader showed no outward reaction to the incident, and made no immediate comment about it.
Two hours earlier, Buthelezi, who declined an invitation to join the group organized by the South African Council of Churches, had visited the same Tokoza hostel on a separate tour with the minister of law and order, Adriaan Vlok.
The hostel-dwellers, wearing red bandannas and brandishing their weapons, danced in the street and chanted praises to the Inkatha leader as he and Vlok arrived in a helicopter and drove through the township in an armored personnel carrier.
In a brief speech, Buthelezi called on his followers to end the township violence. "We cannot fight our way into democracy or a new South Africa. Stop the killing. Lay down your arms. Let us not be culprits in making a future democracy impossible," he said to applause from the crowd.
Buthelezi announced Tuesday that he would be unable to join the church council group, which would have brought Mandela and him together for a meeting that the Inkatha leader has long called for, and accused Mandela of avoiding. Buthelezi said he had received the invitation too late and had had other engagements -- which, it turned out, was a tour of the same trouble spots with Vlok.
Allan Boesak, a former church leader who was part of the group, said the fact that Buthelezi chose to tour the township with Vlok rather than Mandela and the church council group showed that the Inkatha leader was "part of a government alliance."
Tokoza, a comparatively small township in the chain of black ghettos that stretches along the world's richest gold-mining region, to the east and west of Johannesburg, has been the scene of the most violent factional fighting between Inkatha and ANC supporters that has ravaged the area during the last four months. More than 300 people have died in Tokoza, 130 of them since Dec. 3.