Cape Town — The performance of the South African government in the early days of the new session of Parliament may have pleased its more right-wing supporters, but it seems to have confused other political groups in the country.
It certainly has greatly disappointed those who had hoped this Parliament would provide some sweeping changes in South Africa's controversial racial policy.
Instead of repeating recent promises of political changes, Cabinet ministers so far have gone out of their way to reassure their right-wing followers that they did not intend to stray from the traditional positions of the ruling National Party.
They claimed the opposition Progressive Federal Party and the "English press" had blown up popular expectations of change "unrealistically."
Even Prime Minister P. W. Botha, who courageously confronted his own regional political congresses with liberal ultimatums during the parliamentary recess, was cautious. He emphasized that he was not turning into a political liberal -- the worst sort of pariah in National Party eyes.
Moderate black leaders, who had endorsed what was regarded as Mr. Botha's "new initiative" only weeks ago, accused him of "running away from the challenges of our times."
Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, the chief minister of the Zulu tribe, said, "We most certainly expected change, and I mean fundamental change. If Mr. Botha's version of change is to be within the straightjacket of apartheid, then he has strengthened the hands of those who say violence is the only way to bring about change."
Apartheid is the National Party government's system of enforced racial, economic, and political segregation.
The elected leader of the Colored people (people of mixed race), the Rev. Allan Hendrickse, said he found Mr. Botha's "retreat from a course of change" to be a "very said disappointment."
In Soweto Dr. Nthato Motlana, a powerful black opponent of the government, said Mr. Botha's comments in Parliament had confirmed his "worst suspicions."
Political columnist, of the Afrikaans-language newspapers, which support the National Party, insist that the government "is not backtracking" and that "orderly and meaningful changes and the removal of hurtful racial discrimination" would still be instituted "within the policies of the National Party."
In contrast to the government, the new leader of the official opposition in Parliament, Dr. Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, made a good impression in Parliament. He called for a realignment of white South Africans, drawing a line between those who are prepared to share political power with all races, and those who are not.