THE following are excerpts from an interview by World Monitor TV correspondent Ned Temko with South Africa's ruling National Party leader F.W. De Klerk: You are now the most important white political figure in South Africa. What personal qualities do you think you bring to your new office?
I'm a Christian. I'm a South African, an Afrikaner, a lawyer. I love my country and I think that this country has a great future. In that sense of the word, I'm a practical idealist. I think we can build South Africa into something great....
As National Party leader, what message, what issues will you seek to bring before the South African electorate in the coming campaign?
We are reaching out toward a new future ... We will have to bring drastic changes about. In the final analysis, the goal must be fairness to all the people of South Africa, a square deal for each and every section of our population ... White domination, we have clearly stated, must come to an end. But that cannot be exchanged for another form of domination.
Is the ``square deal'' you mention possible without an end to the ``leading role'' of whites in South Africa?
Oh yes, I actually believe that a square deal is possible. What we need to do is to draw all the people into a joint decisionmaking process. The future of all the peoples of this country lies in peace, in good relations, and not in strife and in conflict.
You say two different sorts of ``rights'' concern you as a South African - individual rights and group rights. How do you understand that distinction?
It is my party's policy that we should strike a balance between group rights and individual rights. We referred this question to the South African Law Commission, a totally depoliticized, high-powered judicial body charged with revision and improvement of our law.
This commission also says that the idea of group rights should be divorced from the idea of race rights.
I think one should not be ideologically obsessed with race. But the fact that South Africa is a multiracial country is a reality. We have a fairly open-ended approach as to the formation of new groups. It is possible that a so-called nonracial group might come into being through a process of freedom of association.
So in other words, South Africans would be able to choose to be in a nonracial group.
Things are moving in that direction. As to whether there will be a real need for that, that will have to be shown in practice.
The constitutional conference between black, white, and other South African leaders, for which your party has pushed, has gained little acceptance. What makes you think that the prospects are any better now?
I think that the atmosphere has changed slightly for the better. There is consensus on the need for real negotiation. The differences exist with regard to how that should be structured. We have passed a bill, which is now law, which will structure such negotiations ... I think that people are really coming together on this issue....
We are told you will visit the United States soon. What do you expect to hear from President Bush, and what message will you carry to Washington?
... Obviously I expect criticism. ... But I would hope to also hear that the certain element of stagnation which has entered our bilateral situation in recent years ... should be removed ... We should really talk to each other ... I think there is a wrong perception in America of what is happening in South Africa ... We're not getting recognition for the tremendous advances which we have made in this country. And most of all, I would put on the agenda the destructive effect which sanctions are having, particularly [on] our black people.
How serious do you see the political threat from the extreme right in South Africa?
As things now are on the ground, that threat isn't very serious. They represent in the vicinity of 20 percent of the white electorate. Potentially, however, in a crisis situation - if the reasonable policies of my government don't get international acceptance - then I think there's a real risk that ... the vast majority of people who have moderate views might find themselves caught up in the throes of radicalism.
... We think that the parties to the right have a fatal flaw in their policy: that is, they do not make provision for the reasonable aspirations of the people of color. We think that the parties to the left of us have a fatal flaw in their policy, in that they do not make sufficient provision for the need for protection of minority rights in this country. It is only my party which brings these two needs together into a package, and that is why I have no doubt that we are looking forward to a very good [election] result on Sept. 6.