President Frederik W. de Klerk reshuffled his all-white Cabinet on Saturday, appointing two mixed-race Colored men and an Indian to full ministerial posts in a move designed to cement his party's growing alliances with political leaders from those two groups.
It marked the first time that De Klerk, who took office in 1989, has appointed nonwhites to his inner circle.
De Klerk said he had given "careful consideration" to inviting black leaders to join his Cabinet but decided it "would probably be counterproductive at the present delicate stage of negotiations."
"I look forward to the day when South Africa will have a fully representative government," the president added in a statement.
De Klerk made no specific reference to the color of his new appointees, saying only that the reshuffle was necessitated by "changing needs and circumstances."
But the move came as the ruling National Party began a broad effort to woo Colored and Indian voters, many of whom harbor fears that a black-controlled government will ride roughshod over their rights.
Of South Africa's 38 million people, 29 million are black, 5 million are white, 3 million are classified Colored and 1 million are Indian. Parliament has separate chambers for whites, Coloreds and Indians, but blacks are not represented.
The new Cabinet members, who will take up their posts April 1, include Abe Williams, minister of sport; Jac Rabie, minister of population development, and Bhadra Ranchod, minister of tourism. Williams and Rabie are members of Parliament from the House of Representatives, the Colored chamber. Ranchod has a seat in the House of Delegates, the Indian chamber.
The African National Congress, the main opposition group in the country, said the reshuffle is meaningless because the appointees all are members of Parliament, which it called a discredited institution.
"The Cabinet remains what it has been--not representative of the people of South Africa," said Thabo Mbeki, the ANC's foreign affairs chief. He added that the changes "are not of any relevance to the country."
The new appointees are not the first nonwhites to hold Cabinet posts, but they are the first to be assigned portfolios by the white-minority government.
De Klerk's predecessor, Pieter W. Botha, appointed the Rev. Allen Hendrickse, the Colored House leader, and Amichand Rajbansi, then the Indian House leader, to his Cabinet, although he gave them no ministerial duties. Both later resigned; Hendrickse's departure came after Botha sharply criticized him for a highly publicized protest swim at a whites-only beach.
As part of the Cabinet reshuffle, De Klerk also announced the retirement of Defense Minister Eugene Louw. That ministry was put under the direction of Justice Minister Hendrik J. Coetsee, in a move that analysts said was intended to diminish the importance of the defense portfolio.