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Political Parties at Odds Over Attempt to Rename SAF Highway and School

In South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, an attempt by the ruling ANC party to rename a highway and vocational school is stirring controversy.

The local ANC wants to rename them after a late friend and political associate of Jacob Zuma, communist leader Moses Mabhida. Zuma, who’s being investigated for alleged corruption, is aiming for the party presidency. That would almost assure him of becoming the next South African president.

The highway and school are currently named after Mangosuthu Buthelezi founder and leader of the rival Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He has reacted angrily to the proposal.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

“It has already angered IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who’s from that province and who used to be the leader of the KwaZulu homeland prior to 1994, at which time there was a great deal of conflict between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party. Most of the people there are Zulu. And currently, the ANC has somewhat more support in the province than does the IFP and this has rankled very deeply with Mr. Buthelezi and others in his party. And so he has suggested that if these changes are made it could bring back the violence of the past,” Robertson says.

During apartheid, the ANC was outlawed while the IFP was not. After the government unbanned the ANC, violence escalated between the two. Some estimates say as many as 20,000 people were killed. Could such a level of violence return to South Africa?

Reporter Robertson says, “Personally, I don’t think it’s a strong likelihood. It is a tactic that is used by Mr. Buthelezi, where he warns there will be violence. And during that period, of course, when he warned there would be violence then often there would be violence because that’s the way what he said was received on the ground by his supporters.

“But now I think although you do have violence during election campaigns in the area, it reduces each time there is an election campaign. And Minister Buthelezi is not as popular in the region as he used to be. And I think people actually got extremely tired of the violence.” She says people are more apt to peacefully demonstrate to demand action by their local, provincial and national governments.