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Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 15:31 GMT
ANC moves to avert political crisis
South African army patrol in KwaZulu Natal
The two parties fought a low-key civil war in the province
A disagreement between South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), and an opposition party has been defused after a compromise was reached.

We've averted the crisis. We need to do a bit of fence-mending between ourselves and the IFP

Smuts Ngonyama ANC spokesman
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) had threatened to dissolve the legislative assembly in KwaZulu-Natal if the ANC brought in a law allowing members of the legislature to change parties.

Inkatha feared it would lose control of the province - the country's most populous, and the only one not controlled by the ANC.

ANC and Inkatha members fought a bitter battle in KwaZulu-Natal during the 1990s, which left more than 5,000 people dead.

President Thabo Mbeki interrupted his holiday to go to the province earlier this week, demonstrating how seriously he took the row.

'Written assurances'

The government dropped its controversial plan to introduce the new law which would have allowed several lawmakers from Inkatha to switch parties, effectively handing control of the province to the ANC.

"We've averted the crisis. We need to do a bit of fence-mending between ourselves and the IFP," ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said.

IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi
The IFP leader is a minister in the South African Government

In return KwaZulu-Natal premier Lionel Mtshali, an Inkatha leader, decided not to ask his legislature to dissolve itself and prepare for new elections.

Mr Mtshali said that his party had received written assurances from President Thabo Mbeki and Vice President Jacob Zuma that the controversial amendment would be withdrawn.

But he said that the decision had not been unanimous within his party.

He said that "despite the misgivings of some members of the IFP", the leadership of the party agreed that the dissolution motion should be "held in abeyance" for the time being.

The last-minute deal restores an uneasy alliance formed nearly a decade ago to end years of turmoil and killings between supporters of the two parties.

See also:

17 Dec 02 | Africa
15 Dec 02 | Africa
14 May 99 | Africa
28 Nov 02 | Country profiles
28 Nov 02 | Africa
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