Nelson Mandela on Wednesday rejected police allegations that African National Congress guerrillas are plotting to overthrow the government if negotiations fail and said the South African peace process “remains on course.”
“There is no such plot,” Mandela told a news conference after a two-day closed session of the ANC’s national executive committee. He added that the ANC is “unanimous about working with the government to bring about a democratic transformation. And the method we have chosen is that of peaceful negotiations.”
In recent weeks, police have detained about 40 political activists, including regional ANC officers, and confiscated some weapons. The authorities contend that the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), has been taking advantage of the relaxed political atmosphere to infiltrate South Africa and prepare for a takeover if negotiations with the government break down.
President Frederik W. de Klerk warned earlier this week that increased Umkhonto we Sizwe activity violated the spirit of a May agreement, in which the ANC and the government committed themselves to peaceful solutions. And De Klerk reminded top ANC leaders that the temporary immunity from prosecution, granted to allow them to participate in the peace talks, did not apply to crimes committed after they had re-entered the country.
Police Maj. Gen. Herman Stadler said in an interview this week that the detained guerrillas “acted on specific instructions from (ANC) national executive committee members.” But he said he doubted that any executive committee members would be arrested. The 37 committee members include military commander Joe Modise and chief of staff Chris Hani.
Mandela, ANC deputy president, strongly denied that any ANC guerrillas have sneaked into the country since May, and he said that since the peace process began, “we in the ANC have killed not a single person.”
However, Mandela said that because of communication difficulties, some ANC operatives “are still operating under old instructions.”
“It is not easy for an organization that has operated illegally for so long to take decisions and reach every member affected,” he added. “We have been trying to reach all of them, but it is not an easy task.”
Although the ANC’s 30-year-old guerrilla war has been dormant in recent months, it has not formally suspended the armed struggle. The ANC says it will consider doing that only when the government removes obstacles to negotiation--a move expected in the upcoming ANC-government talks.
The remaining obstacles are: free return of political exiles, release of political prisoners, an end to political trials, the removal of the remaining state of emergency in Natal province and repeal of repressive legislation.
“We are hoping these will be effected in the forthcoming talks,” Mandela said. But, he added, “If the government pulled out of the negotiations, we will be forced to go back to square No. 1. That is perfectly logical.”
Mandela later toured Sebokeng township, about 30 miles south of Johannesburg, where 30 people have died since Sunday in clashes between supporters of the ANC and Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party.
Speaking to a crowd of 5,000, Mandela praised residents for “making a stand against the thugs and killers who come from outside in order to kill our people.” But he added: “I must appeal to you all for discipline. All of you must make an effort to see that conditions in Sebokeng return to normal.”
In another development Wednesday, the Rev. Allan Boesak ended two weeks of silence over his future by reaffirming his decision to resign his ministry and said he and his wife are divorcing.
The announcement followed revelations that Boesak was having an affair with a South African television producer. The mixed-race pastor, a leader in the anti-apartheid movement, said he will continue the relationship.
“What exists between us is a personal matter and nothing which I can be ashamed of,” Boesak said.