Constand Viljoen: on the Afrikaner Right
The divergent political paths of twin Afrikaner brothers reveal the forces pulling at South Africa as the end of white rule approaches
(Page 2 of 2)
Contact between the Volksfront and the ANC - and independently with the government - has continued through the new alliance, but the special demands of the Afrikaners have been marginalized by the conflicting interests of some of the conservative black groups like Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Viljoen blames the politicians for not seeking an accord with moderate blacks two decades ago and then for allowing ANC guerrillas to return to the country without disarming them.
Despite the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Viljoen says there is still a good chance that communism will be implemented in South Africa once there is an ANC-dominated government.
`AS far back as 1969, I had very specific ideas about our black people, and I explained to the politicians the importance to accommodating black political aspirations to keep communism out of South Africa,'' he says. ``I was accused of heresy.''
``If the Afrikaners are forced to fight for their self-determination, there will be a war,'' Viljoen told the Monitor, with all the authority that he once commanded as defense chief.
Viljoen spent the first three months as Volksfront leader on a relentless campaign through the country's rural towns. He and his colleagues have addressed some 72 meetings around the country attended by an estimated 200,000 people.
He has subtly focused his attention more toward negotiation than confrontation, but has urged right-wing Afrikaners and their families to join the commando structures.
As defense chief from 1980-85, Constand Viljoen built a reputation as a soldier's soldier. He made several surprise appearances on the battlefront to direct military operations against guerrillas of the South-West Africa People's Organization in Namibia and in support of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels in Angola.
``It is the responsibility of all of us to try to prevent a war,'' Viljoen told The Star of Johannesburg in a Sept. 27 interview. ``I know war, that is why I try to prevent it.''
By remaining above the strategic differences that separate the myriad of right-wing factions, Viljoen has given new credibility to the Afrikaners' claim to a piece of land they can call their own.
``Given their fear of wholesale change, it might not be a bad idea to let people like Viljoen ... have their own volkstaat,'' wrote black newspaper columnist Kaiser Nyatsumba in that same issue of The Star.
When Conservative Party leader Ferdi Hartzenberg threatened civil war last month if the government went ahead with a multiracial commission to control the security forces and govern the country in the run-up to elections, Viljoen said that Hartzenberg was speaking as a politician.
``If I - as a military man - would make the same remark it would be much more serious,'' he said.
Viljoen faced a similar dilemma in June when armed members of the far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement, or AWB) took over what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration by the Volksfront at the venue of the multiparty negotiations in Johannesburg.
Uniformed AWB members smashed through the plate-glass entrance of the building in an armored vehicle, daubed racist graffiti on the walls of the negotiating chamber, and hurled abuse at delegates.
Viljoen cut a lonely figure inside the building as he condemned the behavior of his right-wing colleagues and apologized for the damage.
``At least if they [the AWB] remain with us,'' said Viljoen in an interview at his office in downtown Pretoria, ``they are partly under control.'' If anyone can control them, Viljoen is probably the man to do it.
And that may be what makes him more indispensible to Nelson Mandela even than President De Klerk.