S. African Compromise Beginning to Form
As South Africa prepares to transfer power to a nonracial government, new political coalitions are emerging
SOUTH Africa's political transition is taking shape as the government and African National Congress move closer to compromise on a phased transfer of political power.Skip to next paragraph
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If the emerging compromise succeeds, it could lead to rule by a coalition of the ruling National Party and the ANC by early next year. The transitional government would amount to black majority rule, but guarantees for whites would ensure consensus decisionmaking at all levels until interim leaders agree these can fall away.
National Party (NP) proposals envisage a shared presidency between the three main players - NP, ANC, and Inkatha Freedom Party - with decisions made on a consensus basis between them.
With the threat of growing right-wing resistance, President Frederik de Klerk appears to be preparing a nervous white constituency for further concessions in order to enlist the ANC in an anti-right coalition.
"A lot can be done to assist De Klerk within the negotiating process," said ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa at a briefing.
Mr. De Klerk's efforts to draw the right-wing Conservative Party (CP) to the negotiating table have failed so far - but divisions remain over whether the party should join talks to negotiate the boundaries of a white homeland. Crucial February vote
"There is no doubt that both De Klerk's support and authority are waning and he must move swiftly if he is to enlist black support for his showdown with the right," a Western diplomat says.
De Klerk must also contend with escalating violence by radical groups, soaring crime rates, and increasing economic hardship resulting from prolonged drought and deepening recession.
A crucial indicator will be the outcome of the Feb. 19 election in the symbolic Transvaal voting district of Potchefstroom - a university and farming town where De Klerk studied. De Klerk has conceded that Potchefstroom will be a fair test of white opinion, but his senior officials are already discounting its significance should conservatives win there.
De Klerk's opponents - on both his left and right flanks - agree that if the Conservatives win it will be difficult to refute the CP's claim that it represents the majority of whites.
This sort of result would undermine De Klerk's position at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) unless it persuades black leaders to actively campaign alongside him for a "yes" vote in a national referendum on transition arrangements.
The Conservative Party, which demands the right to "self-determination" in an as yet unspecified homeland, presents the most serious threat to De Klerk's plans. Ascendancy of ANC
If De Klerk fails to win a white majority in the referendum, he would likely be forced to concede he no longer represents most whites, and either to seek black support to push changes through, or to agree to another white election under the present constitution - something he has said will not happen. This would probably lead to a CP victory followed by a black counter-rebellion and prolonged civil unrest, conflict, and chaos, political analysts say.