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ANC Leaders Stress Bid to Attract S. Africa's Minorities

By John BattersbyStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 5, 1991



DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA

THE African National Congress has launched a campaign to attract white, mixed-race, and Indian South Africans into its ranks as part of a drive to switch from a liberation group to a democratic political movement."We can ill afford to be content with the relatively low level of success that we are making with regard to drawing whites, coloreds [people of mixed-race], and Indians into the organization," Deputy President Nelson Mandela told the ANC national conference on its opening Tuesday, the first such meeting held inside South Africa in more than three decades. "We must ensure that we do not just concentrate on one sector of our population," he said. Mr. Mandela told the 2,000 predominantly black ANC delegates that the organization had signed up about 700,000 members since it was legalized 17 months ago. Of the more than 100 people nominated for 50 elected posts on the ANC executive board, seven are white, four are mixed-race, and 10 are Indians. Of 10 people nominated for the five top ANC jobs, all are black. Mandela said the ANC should examine carefully the reason for its poor showing among minorities. "We should not be afraid to confront the real issue that these national minorities might have fears about the future and to address those fears," Mandela said. In a report to a closed session of the five-day conference, ANC Secretary-General Alfred Nzo analyzed the ANC's failure to win over minorities. At a briefing after the session, ANC executive member Aziz Pahad, an Indian, said research showed the organization had a negative image within the minority groups. "The ANC's image is one of instability and of an organization responsible for the political violence," he said. "It is also one of an organization that it is unable to lead." Mr. Pahad did not refer to the impact of the ANC's alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP), but delegates said Mr. Nzo had acknowledged damage to the ANC's image. President Frederik de Klerk has ruled out any alliance between the ruling National Party and the ANC as long as it maintains ties to the SACP. The SACP supports the ANC in its program of national liberation, but differs with the ANC on introducing socialism once power has transferred to a nonracial government. In his speech, Mandela referred cautiously to the sensitive SACP issue, stressing the separateness of the two parties and the independent policymaking processes. But the nomination of Allan Boesak - a leading mixed-race foe of apartheid and an outspoken critic of the SACP - for a post on the ANC national executive board suggested the ANC was grappling with the issue behind the scenes. Dr. Boesak, who has met with Mandela several times in recent months, has been courted by the ANC because of his popularity among the nation's 3 million coloreds. His ability to attract people to the ANC is seen as a potential asset in the ANC's faltering recruitment drive in that community. But Boesak had insisted he would not join unless the ANC clarified its position on the SACP alliance and until he cleared up "personal and ideological" differences with ANC leaders in the Western Cape region. He signed on as a party member only hours before nominations closed, indicating that the leaders' statements met his conditions. Boesak's nomination despite his anticommunist views suggests support for his viewpoint. "We must begin to arrive at firm conclusions about what we would do with the country once we become the governing party," Mandela said. He proposed with some urgency that the ANC enter an all-party conference to discuss constitutional principles, the formation of an interim government, and seek consensus on an elected constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution. "If the conference endorses Mandela's line - both in content and tone - then I think, for the first time, the ANC will be really grappling with negotiations," Boesak told the Monitor. "The government will find a much tougher and more confident ANC."

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