Black Group Shuns Talks on Reshaping S. Africa : Apartheid: The militant Pan-Africanist Congress walks out, reflecting differences with the ANC on wisdom of negotiations opening Dec. 20.
The militant Pan-Africanist Congress stalked out of multi-party talks with the government and other black groups Saturday, saying it would ask its supporters whether it should continue participating in preparations for constitutional negotiations.
But the other 19 political groups, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party, concluded the two-day planning session with an unprecedented agreement to move decisively to open constitutional negotiations Dec. 20 and 21.
The pullout by the PAC highlighted growing differences between it and the ANC, the country’s largest black opposition group, as well as deep disagreements within the PAC rank and file over the wisdom of negotiating with the government.
Dikgang Moseneke, the PAC deputy president, did not rule out a return to the talks, but he said his organization would seek a “fresh mandate” from its supporters at a special congress Dec. 16. Most of the PAC proposals were voted down by others during preliminary talks Friday and Saturday, and the PAC accused the ANC of colluding with the government.
“We fought long and hard, and our delegates were valiant and tactful,” Moseneke said. “And we suspect that, but for the collusion, we may have won several points. However, we lost on key issues.”
The PAC and the ANC last month led a dozen black groups in forming a “patriotic front” for talks with the government, but ANC delegates have been more willing than the PAC to compromise with the government on such issues as the venue and chairmanship of coming constitutional negotiations.
The PAC, which has small but significant support among the country’s black majority, has been sharply critical of preliminary ANC-government talks. It contends that those talks have resulted in secret agreements between the ANC and the government on many matters still under discussion. Both the ANC and the government deny the PAC allegations, although the two have held numerous talks aimed at speeding up the process of negotiations.
The walkout marred an otherwise successful series of meetings, which have set the stage for formal negotiations later this month on a future constitution that will give blacks their first vote in the country’s national affairs.
Delegates on Saturday set up a panel to iron out remaining areas of disagreement for the talks, which will be in Johannesburg under the joint chairmanship of two South African Superior Court judges.
“We have jointly taken the future of our country into our hands,” declared Cyril Ramaphosa, the secretary general of the ANC.
Gerrit Viljoen, the government’s chief negotiator, said the country has “now reached a phase where real talks will begin. This meeting is a watershed in our history.” He said he is heartened by the spirit of the talks, especially the “repeated efforts to find agreement in areas where it seemed impossible.”
Frank Mdlalose, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party delegation, said the planning sessions showed that “South Africans can put right that which is wrong.”
Although the PAC’s participation is not essential, the success of constitutional negotiations will depend greatly on the government’s ability to lure the broadest array of political groups to the bargaining table. Another important group, the right-wing Conservative Party, which represents more than 25% of the country’s white voters, has so far refused to participate in talks with black groups.
The PAC has been under increasing criticism from within its own ranks, mostly among younger members, for agreeing to participate in the talks. Although the PAC and ANC agree on many matters, including the need for a nationally elected constituent assembly to draw up the constitution, the PAC has taken a harder line and retained its long reliance on the rhetoric of revolution.
Unlike the PAC, which has a policy of black self-reliance, the ANC has many white members and has generally taken a more moderate position on negotiations with the government.
While the ANC says it is prepared to negotiate such matters as redistribution of land and protection for whites and other minorities, PAC leaders have frightened many whites with what they say are non-negotiable demands for a complete turnover of power to a black-controlled government and for the return of white-owned land to what they call “the toiling and dispossessed African masses.”
During the sessions Friday and Saturday, the ANC and PAC disagreed strongly on the technical preparations for formal negotiations. The PAC had opposed everything from the name to the site, arguing that negotiations should take place outside the country under the direction of an international body such as the Organization of African Unity or the United Nations.
But the ANC, the government and the other 17 delegations agreed to call the negotiations the Convention for a Democratic South Africa and to hold the negotiations inside the country under the direction of the South African judges who presided over the planning session.