S. Africa Leaders Offer Concessions to Militants : Politics: Amendments to interim constitution urged. Aim is to lure Zulus, rightists into electoral process.


Hoping to defuse a growing political crisis and reduce the threat of civil war, leaders of the government and the African National Congress on Wednesday announced major political concessions in hopes of luring militant black and white holdouts into the election process.

President Frederik W. de Klerk announced that the Parliament will be called into special session in early March to ratify a series of amendments to the recently approved interim constitution.

Among other changes, the new provisions would allow the use of two ballots instead of one in the April elections, so voters can pick different parties for the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. And far greater regional autonomy would be granted to the country’s nine new provinces.


The Parliament will also be asked to modify the law so the holdout parties can register to contest the elections, the first in which South Africa’s black majority will be able to vote.

Nineteen parties had registered before the deadline expired last Saturday.

ANC and government negotiators say the constitutional changes go a long way toward meeting key demands of the Freedom Alliance, a fractious coalition of militant right-wing Afrikaner groups; the pro-segregationist Conservative Party; conservative black homeland leaders who were installed under apartheid, and the Zulu-nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party.

The groups are united in their fear that their current powers will be crushed under an ANC-dominated government led by Nelson Mandela, the ANC president.

The alliance has said it will boycott the elections and not abide by the post-apartheid constitution unless its demands are met.

Its leaders have repeatedly threatened to launch a campaign of armed resistance if they are not given far greater regional autonomy, including the creation of an independent white homeland for Afrikaners and the restoration of the traditional Zulu kingdom in eastern South Africa.

None of the accommodations announced Wednesday night specifically dealt with those two demands.


But the changes include a new constitutional provision guaranteeing the principle of “self-determination” and a promise to create a mechanism for consideration of limited ethnic or racial enclaves under provincial charters.

The ANC remains opposed to the establishment of territories based on race, but Mandela said he is willing to discuss white fears and to try to work out a solution.

The proposed changes also include additional powers of regional taxation and greater devolution of authority to guarantee more independence to the provincial assemblies.

This could make it more difficult for an ANC-dominated National Assembly to rewrite the interim constitution to override local decisions, a key demand of the smaller parties.

In this vein, the concession on two ballots is significant because the ANC and the government previously had insisted on one ballot, a device that seemed likely to ensure greater majorities for the two dominant parties and the demise of many smaller ones.

In a small but also important gesture, Natal province will also be renamed KwaZulu/Natal.

KwaZulu, now a homeland in Natal that was created under apartheid, is a traditional name for the Zulu land, and this demand has been an emotional issue among many Zulus.


“We are firmly of the view that these proposals remove all the remaining obstacles for the parties which have not yet done so to register and become part of the process,” Mandela said at a Johannesburg news conference before he left on a fund-raising visit to the Netherlands.

Leaders of the Freedom Alliance declined immediate comment, saying they needed time to study the proposals.

Earlier Wednesday, Zulu chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi had warned at a news conference here in Cape Town that the country faced “a holocaust” if the disaffected groups were not accommodated.

The package is virtually identical to one that the government offered to the Freedom Alliance before intensive, closed-door negotiations broke down last week.

At the time, the ANC and the government said the changes would be made only if the alliance members agreed to participate in the election and respect the results.

The new version, however, will be implemented whether or not the alliance agrees to renounce violence and join the democratic process. It effectively throws the ball into their court, and gives their leaders, or at least their supporters, a face-saving way to avoid being shut out of the transition to a post-apartheid government.


“The road to peaceful participation in the election is, in our opinion, now open to all the parties, and the government expresses its hope that the Freedom Alliance will now place the interests of South Africa and its own voters first,” De Klerk said in Pretoria.

He added: “We are going to do this whether the Freedom Alliance accepts the present conditions or not. Time is of the essence.”

De Klerk will meet with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini today to discuss the package.

The king announced Monday that he wanted the government to cede him the northeast quadrant of the country to create an independent monarchy as a home for the estimated 8 million Zulus.

Mandela said the ANC is also prepared to meet with the king.

The sharp shift by the government and ANC allows them to claim the moral high ground by unilaterally yielding to avoid greater bloodshed in a country already racked by fierce factional fighting.

More than 4,000 people were reported killed in political violence last year.

In separate incidents Wednesday, an ANC local leader and school principal was shot to death as he taught a class near Port Shepstone in Natal.

Further west, in the Eastern Transvaal, about 30 people were wounded when police fired shotguns and rubber bullets at blacks protesting right-wing plans to declare the town of Standerton part of a white homeland.


“We must treat the threat of civil war seriously. That is why we have gone out of our way to make these concessions,” Mandela said.

But he warned that the transition to democracy and black majority rule will proceed with or without the Freedom Alliance.

Mandela told reporters that the country’s first democratic elections will not be postponed under any circumstances.