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Black Militants Ease Stance on Talks

South Africa's Pan Africanist Congress moves toward accommodation with Pretoria

By John BattersbyStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 20, 1992



JOHANNESBURG

THE Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which has long shunned negotiations, has reached a broad agreement with the South African government that could lead to its inclusion in restructured talks aimed at a transition to democracy.

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The breakthrough came after three hours of talks between a PAC delegation and government officials in Pretoria late Tuesday. An official statement said the two sides made "substantive progress" toward an agreement that would pave the way for the PAC to enter negotiations.

The most significant element of the preliminary accord was the recognition by the government that the PAC's "armed struggle" - which targets mainly policemen for assassination - would continue until agreement had been reached on the process of transition to democracy. The PAC agreed to suspend its armed struggle at that point.

The two parties also agreed that the present negotiating forum - the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) - should be made more representative and that a new constitution should be drawn up by an elected constitution-making body.

They also agreed that the process of registration for a nonracial (common) voter roll should begin as soon as possible.

"The present situation favors the PAC and will enable it to enter negotiations and still save face," says Johannes Rantete, researcher at the independent Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.

"The PAC has been vindicated in its decision to stay out of Codesa and in its insistence on international involvement," Mr. Rantete says. "But it will still have to be very careful how it presents its entry into negotiations to a critical constituency."

IT was announced in New York Monday that the UN Security Council had authorized the urgent stationing of UN observers in the country to help end the violence. This decision, which followed the visit of UN special envoy Cyrus Vance last month, left it to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to set the number of observers.

The African National Congress (ANC), which is widely regarded as the most representative black movement, suspended its "armed struggle" in September 1990 in a compromise aimed at promoting a negotiated settlement.

But the move coincided with a nationwide escalation of political violence which has hampered the ANC's ability to mobilize political support and prepare for free and fair elections.

In May this year, multiparty negotiations ground to a halt when government and ANC negotiators deadlocked on the definition of majority rule.

Mr. Rantete said the kind of meetings the PAC was holding with the government were similar to those held between government and the ANC in 1990 to remove political obstacles to negotiations.

"It will not be possible to have a successful outcome to negotiations without including these parties," he said.

In November last year, a PAC delegation walked out of preparatory talks leading to the creation of Codesa on the grounds that it was a forum being used to legitimize a secret pact between the ANC and government.

Tuesday's meeting was the second of a round of bilateral talks between the two parties in the past week and represents a significant thaw in relations between the Pretoria government and the PAC. The first contact took place in Lagos, Nigeria, during the annual conference of the 50-nation Organization of African Unity in May.

PAC national organizer Maxwell Nemadzivhanani told the Monitor that PAC Foreign Affairs Secretary Gora Ebrahim, who led the delegation at Tuesday's talks, had been mandated to discuss with Constitutional Development Minister Roelf Meyer the convening of a summit between President Frederick de Klerk and PAC leader Clarence Makwethu.

"We are confident that it will take place soon," said Mr. Nemadzivhanani. He said the PAC wanted the meeting to be held in Namibia, Botswana, or Zimbabwe. But PAC officials appeared to soften their insistence that the next round of multiparty negotiations be held outside the country under a neutral chairman. The PAC has a long history of insisting on international mediation both in the negotiation process and in monitoring violence and has insisted in the past that negotiations should be limited to the " modalities" of setting-up an elected constitution-making body.

The elected body, which the PAC calls a constituent assembly, would draft a democratic constitution based on majority rule.