ANC Pledges to Break Down Barriers to Peace : South Africa: Leaders praise progress made in talks with the government. But they fear that whites will refuse to give up their privileged status.
The African National Congress carried its first agreement with the white government back to its supporters Sunday, telling tens of thousands at a Soweto rally that the ANC “will do what we can reasonably be expected to do” to create a peaceful climate for negotiations.
But ANC leaders also cautioned the black majority against unrealistic hopes for rapid change, citing deep differences between the ANC and the government over what a future South Africa should look like.
The ANC-government agreement, reached Friday in Cape Town, “will only lead to peace if the peace we’re talking about leads us in a straight line to a non-racial, democratic South Africa,” said Joe Slovo, a 64-year-old white ANC leader and general secretary of the Communist Party.
Slovo praised President Frederik W. de Klerk for opening talks with blacks but suggested that De Klerk’s desire to protect “minorities” is a veiled attempt to maintain white privilege and power.
“We should stop playing with words now. We only know one kind of democracy--majority rule and an end to all political and economic race privilege,” Slovo said to cheers from about 30,000 supporters in a half-filled soccer stadium near South Africa’s largest black township.
The pact that emerged from three days of talks last week was hailed by newspaper editorials and liberal politicians over the weekend as an important step toward launching negotiations to end apartheid and extend voting rights to South Africa’s 27 million blacks.
“The best way to sum up the talks is: So far, so good,” said The Citizen, a newspaper that represents the ruling National Party’s more conservative wing, a constituency De Klerk needs to hold to maintain the momentum of reform.
“But there is a long way to go before the destination is reached,” The Citizen’s editorial added.
The talks made substantial progress in clearing away obstacles to formal negotiations that had been raised by both the government and the ANC.
Both sides agreed to work to quell escalating unrest, and the recently unbanned ANC said it would review its 30-year-old strategy of guerrilla war. The government promised to review security legislation, including the four-year-old state of emergency, and the two delegations set up a panel to determine ways of identifying and releasing political prisoners and of granting amnesty to exiles.
But Slovo and black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela told the rally Sunday that they are worried about the government’s desire to build in political protection for the white minority, which could amount to veto power for whites.
Mandela said he has told De Klerk that the ANC, which welcomes all races to its ranks, “can never accept the concept of group rights.”
“The fact that Mr. De Klerk is still bringing this issue to the negotiating table means white South Africa doesn’t trust us,” added Mandela, 71, released three months ago after 27 years in prison. “We must accept the criticism. We must think not in terms of black and white, but in terms of South Africa. Any form of racism is a formula for disaster.”
Mandela said he hopes to have several discussions with De Klerk before the next round of ANC-government talks, as yet unscheduled.
Meanwhile, De Klerk prepared to leave Tuesday for an 18-day, nine-nation trip to Europe, one of the most extensive foreign diplomatic ventures ever undertaken by a South African president. De Klerk will brief leaders of European nations on his reform plans and also meet with businessmen in hopes of persuading them to lift economic sanctions.
Johannesburg bureau researcher Vaun Cornell contributed to this story.