DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA — THE Pretoria government has welcomed the more flexible position on negotiations and sanctions adopted by the African National Congress at its landmark conference here and has hinted that talks will resume soon."We are in a hurry to get a multiparty conference together to start serious negotiations," South African President Frederik de Klerk told reporters after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in Pretoria July 8. The ANC's softer line at the conference also appears to have opened the international floodgates for renewed diplomatic, economic, and sporting contacts. In Washington, United States State Department officials indicated that President Bush could order the lifting of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 within the next week. Some US Congressmen said they expect sanctions against South Africa to be lifted by Congress after a short battle. Under the prevailing definition of political prisoners, it appears likely the US will certify the situation as meeting the directive to free "all political prisoners." Mr. Hurd, who arrived in South Africa for a short visit July 8, announced 1 million British pounds ($1.63 million) in aid for the repatriation of exiles and pledged substantial British aid to help build the post-apartheid South Africa. At a meeting July 8 with ANC President Nelson Mandela, Hurd acknowledged remaining differences on the sanctions issue, but said they had agreed on South Africa's return to the international sporting arena. The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, was expected to announce South Africa's return to the Olympic movement July 10. The meeting, which is being attended by a South African delegation, comes two weeks before the July 25 deadline for invitations to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. International sports administrators say South Africa is on the verge of readmittance to the International Amateur Athletics Federation and could attend the World Championships in Tokyo next month. And on July 10 in London, the International Cricket Council was expected to announce the full membership of the new nonracial South African controlling body, the United Cricket Board. Diplomats said India, the first country to impose economic sanctions against South Africa in the 1960s, was planning to send a high-level trade delegation to the country following a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in Zimbabwe in October. Foreign guests at the ANC conference in Durban read like a Who's Who of countries that have studiously avoided official contacts with South Africa in the past few decades. These included India, Cuba, Algeria, Angola, the Soviet Union, China, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. Also represented at the ANC conference were the Organization of African Unity, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid.
ANC reverses ultimatum The ANC conference endorsed a phased approach to lifting sanctions, but added that sanctions pressure should be maintained until liberation had been achieved. The conference reversed the ANC's three-month-old ultimatum that threatened withdrawal from negotiations with the government, opting instead to invest the ANC leadership with "discretionary powers" to continue talks "within the policies of the ANC." Gerrit Viljoen, constitutional development minister, said it was hoped that an effective multiparty conference could complete its business before year's end and that full negotiations could be under way by the end of the year or early next year. The multiparty conference - the ANC prefers to call it an all-party conference - will determine a set of constitutional principles, determine the form of an interim government, and decide on the timing of an elected constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution. In his speech to the ANC conference Mr. Mandela hinted that a "transitional government of national unity" representing all the major parties could rule during the transition and that an election could follow at a later stage. Major parties - such as the ruling National Party, the ANC, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) - have designated representatives to begin convening an all-party conference. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha's leader, announced July 8 a special IFP conference on July 19 to consider the new positions adopted by the ANC at its Durban conference. The IFP would also consider its relationship with the Pan-Africanist Congress, the ANC's militant rival, which is due to hold a conference in mid-August. A conference of anti-apartheid groups could be held later in August with a view to forming a "patriotic front" to negotiate with the government. The ANC conference revealed a broad consensus with the government on the shape of a new constitution based on a multiparty system, an independent judiciary, a bill of rights, and a mixed economy, which would enshrine private ownership and encourage foreign investment.
Concern over communists Following his meeting with Hurd July 8, Mr. De Klerk welcomed the fact that the ANC now had a "constructive mandate" to start negotiations. But he expressed reservations about the many communists on the new ANC executive board. De Klerk indicated that the communist presence would not affect negotiations. "I am on record as saying that while I can negotiate with anyone playing the game, I cannot push in the same scrum as communists," he said, describing the relationship between the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) as a "scrambled egg" rather than an alliance. De Klerk has repeatedly stated that the ANC-SACP alliance is the only impediment to a closer relationship between the ruling National Party and the ANC. At the conference Mandela resisted a public debate on the alliance, but ANC officials said a gradual separation of the two parties and their policies was continuing. The secretive SACP is expected to hold its own conference in December, where it has promised to reveal its full membership.