SOUTH Africa's trek toward democracy and peace has again been blocked by violence. Leaders on all sides are hurtling blame, and the crucial process of negotiating a new governmental structure appears to be near final collapse.
But this week's tragedy, the massacre of 28 South African protest marchers in the tribal "homeland" of Ciskei, should not be a reason for ending all talks, but rather an incentive to revive them. Full reversion to confrontational politics, though it may please extremists on both left and right, is the surest way to extend the racial divisions and hatreds engendered by apartheid. Only the building of trust and cooperation across racial lines can leave the old system behind.
After a hopeful beginning late last year, negotiations between the government of President Frederik De Klerk and the African National Congress soon hit barriers. Government negotiators angled for a form of minority veto; the ANC wanted the majority to hold sway. A compromise between minority rights and majority rule, central to democratic societies, seemed achievable. But talks broke off in May. Heightened violence since then has driven the parties farther apart.
The Ciskei incident could drive the wedge deeper. The ANC blames the government, rightly calling Ciskei and its bogus leadership a product of apartheid, propped up by Pretoria.
But the ANC itself has drawn criticism for launching the march on Ciskei, which was intended to topple its dictator, Brig. Oupa J. Gqozo. ANC organizers didn't count on General Gqozo's troops' obeying orders to shoot any "trespassers."
Ciskei's soldiers, however, are trained and funded by South Africa. As a report in Wednesday's Monitor by correspondent John Battersby explained, the homeland's leadership has been maneuvered by white military advisers into alignment with right-wing goals. In contrast to most Ciskeians, Gqozo virulently opposes the ANC.
It's questionable that a petty tyrant like Gqozo, with virtually no popular support, should have any role in future talks. The same goes for most other homeland leaders. The critical interlocutors are the government and the ANC. Before the Ciskei killings, productive discussions between ANC general secretary Cyril Ramaphosa and constitutional development minister Roelf Meyer had hinted at a resumption of full negotiations. Now pressures are building to cut off all contact.
The need has never been greater for far-sighted South Africans to break with the past, admit mistakes, and suggest new ways of moving forward.