Reform in South Africa runs aground. Pretoria is trying to force blacks to negotiate on its terms. Part of the strategy is to hold firm with the state of emergency. Although the clampdown is suppressing violence, it is also aggravating black frustration and anger. First of three articles.
Cape Town — The South African government has written off prospects of an early breakthrough on negotiated power-sharing with blacks. Instead, it has adopted a carrot-and-stick strategy to remove obstacles to such progress.
The strategy, outlined in Monitor interviews with prominent members of President Pieter W. Botha's ruling National Party, has developed since the June 12 decision to impose a nationwide state of emergency. The approach permeated speeches at last week's National Party congress and is taking clearer shape at a special session of South Africa's Parliament that began here this week.
The government hope is to wear down what National Party sources termed ``inflated'' demands of black militants at home and sanctions advocates abroad.
Pretoria also hopes to win a mandate from white voters to ignore right-wing foes of any race-policy reform.
At the same time, there will be new investment in housing for blacks in the townships, where freehold property rights have been granted this year for the first time.
Then, the official thinking goes, a compromise can be achieved with moderate blacks. The compromise would offer blacks participation in government. It would also bar their ``domination'' of whites, who would be guaranteed ``their self-determination and group security.''
The National Party figures interviewed did not predict how long it would take for the strategy to succeed, or exactly when the government would hold a referendum or election for white voters. Opposition politicians said the ruling party's approach would at most score temporary gains, and would sow bitterness rather than cooperation among blacks.
Evidence of government thinking emerged during the opening days of this week's parliamentary session. When the session was planned some 10 weeks ago, an expected centerpiece was legislation for a National Statutory Council, on which blacks would advise the government on race-reform legislation and negotiate a formula for power sharing.
But National Party sources say it is unlikely the bill will be brought forth in this session -- and that in any case, the start of power-sharing talks through such a council is not immediately in the cards.
The main fire in Parliament is likely to come from the white-liberal opposition. Its leaders are determined to put detailed criticism of the state of emergency on the parliamentary record, where it will be exempt from curbs placed on the news media under the state of emergency.
Since the paliamentary session was announced, the political situation and government calculations have shifted. Among the elements of the change are:
Mounting pressures here and overseas for concessions beyond what the government has in mind. The most conciliatory of major black leaders, Gatsha Buthelezi, said he would not consider joining the council until men like Nelson Mandela, the jailed former leader of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), are freed. He also aired fears that the council's purpose was merely to coopt blacks into the government's view of power sharing.
On the international front, an ``eminent persons'' delegation from the Commonwealth countries pressed Mr. Botha to free Mr. Mandela and to negotiate with the most prominent black group fighting to end white rule, the ANC. Meanwhile, moves for foreign sanctions against Pretoria have gathered momentum.
Black political violence, and demands for black-majority rule. These continued unabated by police muscle or the government's power-sharing offer.
Increasingly staunch opposition from ultraconservative whites. They have attacked the government for what they termed a series of floundering reform concessions -- risking a black takeover.
It was against this background that Botha declared the emergency, facilitating the arrest without trial of at least 8,500 people. In announcing the crackdown, he said black violence made it impossible for moderate blacks to join the search for compromise -- a message repeated at last week's party congress.
The priority now, say National Party sources, will be to alter political perceptions among black militants, white intransigents, and sanctions advocates overseas. ``We want to make it crystal clear,'' said one parliamentarian, ``that white capitulation is simply not an option.'' The government will also maintain security force pressure against violence.
The parliamentarian echoed government statements that the state of emergency is turning the tide on black violence. But he added that it is imperative to go further, and ``create a situation of overall political stability'' under which moderate blacks felt they could and should negotiate power sharing.
Those interviewed said the government intended to make it clear that, although sanctions would harm South Africa's economy, they would not force government concessions. One legislator said the eventual release of Mandela could not be ruled out. But, he added, ``As long as people outside are demanding Mandela go free, he's not going free.''
``Any government would act similarly. . . . The world should know that this sort of dictate will have the effect of uniting us in opposition to such dictates.''
This report was filed under South Africa's emergency regulations, which prohibit naming detainees, reporting security force actions unless officially authorized, and relaying information deemed subversive.