Chance for a Unified Policy on South Africa
DESPITE the recent speech by South African President Frederik de Klerk, in which he rejected majority rule in South Africa, it is possible for the first time since the establishment of apartheid over four decades ago, to see a ray of light at the end of a long tunnel of darkness, discrimination, and despair. My optimism stems in part from South Africa's decision to release Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and to unban the African National Congress (ANC). It is absolutely clear that without Mr. Mandela and the ANC, there can be no solution to the turmoil in South Africa acceptable to the great majority of black South Africans, without whose support no settlement could possibly work.Skip to next paragraph
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Several weeks ago I was part of a congressional delegation which met with Mandela in Lusaka. One of the most impressive political leaders I've ever met, he struck me as a kind of African Abraham Lincoln, in the sense that he possesses a deep commitment to the principle of majority rule but also an acute sensitivity to the concerns of the minority.
Much of what he said echoed Lincoln's Second Inaugural, in which the great emancipator, in the waning weeks of the Civil War, called for ``malice toward none and charity for all.'' Mandela made it clear he is just as opposed to black repression as to white tyranny.
In addition to a compelling personal presence, a quiet eloquence, and a gentle dignity, what is perhaps most remarkable about Mandela is that after 27 years in prison, during which the apartheid regime took away the best years of his life, he seems utterly unembittered and fully prepared to extend the hand of reconciliation.
I was also impressed by Mr. De Klerk. Compared to his predecessor, P.W. Botha, he is as day is to night. What most struck me about De Klerk was the extent to which he has broken with the conceptual rigidities and ideological shibboleths of the apartheid system.
He told us, for example, that he recognizes that for any settlement to work, it has to be acceptable to the majority of the black community. He seems to understand that the concepts of a separate black parliament, a separate white voter roll, or a race-based arrangement would be unrealistic and unacceptable as the basis for a future political system. And, perhaps most significantly, he appears to accept the validity of the basic black demand for a universal franchise within a unified state.
President de Klerk has, to be sure, rejected the concept of an untrammelled majority rule as the basis for a new constitutional dispensation in South Africa. To the extent that De Klerk's preference for a system of checks and balances constitutes a means of giving the white minority the ability to maintain its political and economic domination, it will clearly be unacceptable to the black majority.
But if De Klerk is willing to accept constitutional arrangements that are primarily designed to provide political protections for fundamental freedoms, as distinguished from a white veto over government policy as a whole, a political settlement may still be possible.
As for US policy, President Bush now has a rare opportunity to unite the Congress and the country around a new approach toward South Africa that would enable us to facilitate a settlement leading to the abolition of apartheid and its replacement by a new system based on the principle of majority rule and minority rights. Such an approach should have three components.
First, it should maintain the existing sanctions, which clearly played a critical role in leading the South African government to the conclusion that fundamental change was necessary, until such time as there has been irreversible progress toward the abolition of apartheid.