An Afrikaner who wants to be South Africa's Ronald Reagan

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Willie Lubbe wants to do for South Africa what Ronald Reagan did for the United States: make conservatism respectable again. But this is South Africa, where even many of the "liberals" don't support majority rule. So it comes as no surprise that Mr. Lubbe's definition of conservatism is pretty far to the right.

For example, he rejects "racial integration in all fields, including labor, economics, social life, sport, education, the defense force, the police, and other social services. . . ."

What is more, he says, tens of thousands of South Africans share his views.

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Mr. Lubbe, a professor of classics at the University of South Africa, is one of the founders of a new political movement in South Africa, "Aksie Eie Toekoms" (Afrikaans for "action own future").

The group, formed within the past few weeks, is yet another sign of rising right-wing disenchantment with South African Prime Minister P. W. Botha, who has suggested some changes in this country's race policies. Moreover, it is symptomatic of a growing split within the dominant Afrikaner ethnic group here -- between those who cling to rigid separation of the races and those who seek some accommodation with South Africa's 80 percent black majority.

No one, including Professor Lubbe, is predicting that right-wingers will take over the government after April's elections here, but a number of analysts are taking the growing disunity among the Afrikaner people seriously.

Die Kerkbode, the official journal of the Dutch Reformed Church (to which the vast majority of Afrikaners belong) has predicted that the elections will trigger "perhaps vicious" struggles within Afrikanerdom.

The reason, according to Professor Lubbe, is that the ruling National Party has simply lost touch with its grass-roots membership. It is simply pushing desegregation on people, he complains, then using the Afrikaans-language press and government-controlled broadcast media to propagate the notion that change is inevitable and needed.

Not so, says Professor Lubbe.Thousands of white South Africans, he says, are insecure under the present government's policies.

"Now," he posits, "you've got a living fear of anything that leads to racial integration."

"Whites, they're thinking of their own future first," says the tall, thin, gray-haired academic.

"Everyone wants to survive, if he's a normal individual. I mean, that's natural instinct, to survive."

His formula for white survival: territorial separation between the racial and ethnic groups in South Africa.

"Every national group should enjoy complete freedom to govern itself within its own territory. By territory we mean its own fatherland," he said in an interview.

That, he claims, is what was envisioned by Hendrik F. Verwoerd, the original architect of apartheid, South Africa's system of racial segregation.

The National Party has "deviated quite a lot from Verwoerd's idea," he charges, "although they like to quote Verwoerd when it suits them."

"We reject the so-called 'essential changes' for the sake of harmony between races," Professor Lubbe says, "which in fact means that the whites are expected to share with all and sundry that which is exclusively their own."

Aksie Eie Toekoms is not a registered political party in South Africa, yet it plans to field six candidates in the Pretoria area for the coming April election. They will stand as independents.

Then, he says, "we plan a new political party, which is to be formally launched at a congress after the general election."

The new group will compete -- or perhaps find accommodation -- with two other right-wing parties in this country. the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP or Reconstituted National Party) was founded in 1969 by Dr. Albert Hertzog, but its hard-line racist image has prevented it from capturing a single parliamentary seat.

Similarly, the National Conservative Party (NCP) has a tarnished faade because the party's founder, Dr. Cornelius Mulder, was involved in the country's "information scandal" of some two years ago. Aksie Eie Toekoms has no such liabilities, and the group's hope is to provide a political home for those who fear integration under the National Party.

Professor Lubbe, himself an Afrikaner, is untroubled by charges that he is fostering a split among the Afrikaner people -- traditionally one of the most cohesive ethnic groups on the continent.

"You must have disunity. Disunity is better than no future," he says.

Similarly, he rejects the notion that it is better to push for change within the National Party than to start new groups in opposition. "People have been trying to [change the party from within] for 12 or 13 years without success. We think a new beginning should be made."

Some analysts liken this period in Afrikaner politics to the election of 1948 , when Afrikaner Prime Minister Jan Christian Smuts, -- charged with having lost touch with his own people -- was defeated, and the National Party first came to power.

"Something of the same kind is happening now," Professor Lubbe says.

And what does that mean for the future of the National Party?

"The Nats?" he asks, pausing a moment. "They're going to disintegrate. Some who are really liberal will go to the left. But most will go to the right." And Aksie Eie Toekoms, he says, wil l be waiting to accommodate them.

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