JOHANNESBURG — A BOMB blast at a shelter for deprived children at Warmbaths, north of Pretoria, could indicate a switch in right-wing strategy from armed propaganda to terrorism, military analysts say.
Bomb attacks in the last 10 weeks on railway lines, power pylons, and offices of the African National Congress (ANC) are part of the right-wing's strategy to obtain by force its demand for a separate Afrikaner homeland or prevent the country's all-race elections on April 27, analysts say.
The 31 bomb attacks have been carried out with military precision and they have occurred mainly in the right-wing rural strongholds in the Western Transvaal and Orange Free State Provinces - territory that right-wing leaders want as the the core of an Afrikaner homeland. The bomb attacks have occurred mainly at night and so far only two people have died.
But the blast at the shelter for homeless black children marks a departure from a well-established pattern of targets.
``This is an orchestrated and well-organized attempt by elements in the far-right to turn up the heat in the negotiations,'' said Jakki Cilliers, director of the Institute for Defense Politics (IDP). ``The question is whether this latest bombing represents a switch from armed propaganda to terrorism,'' Mr. Cilliers said.
Law and Order Minister Hernus Kriel announced yesterday that they had detained five right-wing extremists in the Transvaal and northern Orange Free State after an intensive six-week investigation into the bombings. They also seized explosives and firearms. Mr. Kriel said that police had also arrested five suspected members of the Azanian People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the Pan-Africanist Congress in connection with a weekend hand grenade attack on a swimming pool in Natal.
Negotiators of the Freedom Alliance (FA) - a coalition of the white right and conservative black leaders - yesterday discussed a compromise proposal from the government and ANC, which would grant greater powers of taxation to the regions and allow separate voting for national and regional assemblies.
But government and ANC negotiators were not hopeful of a breakthrough before the Feb. 12 deadline for political parties to register for the election.
The right wing's escalating sabotage campaign was put on the national agenda over the weekend when ANC President Nelson Mandela, who until now has consistently stressed the need to continue talking to the right wing, threatened ANC retaliation unless attacks on ANC offices and personnel were halted.
At a rally on Saturday of the neo-fascist Afrikaner Resistance Movement, leader Eugene Terre Blanche warned that there would be more bombs unless the Afrikaners were granted their homeland. Mr. Mandela criticized Afrikaner Volksfront leader Gen. Constand Viljoen for his threat to unleash ``limited violence'' in pursuit of Afrikaner demands. ``We won't make it a limited retaliation,'' Mandela said, adding that the government's lack of decisive action was unhelpful.
Kriel said Sunday Mandela's response to the right-wing threat was ``hysterical and irresponsible.'' He said the only way to apprehend the right-wingers was for the security forces to infiltrate their organizations. But the IDP's Cilliers said that the police's morale was at an all-time low. ``They feel so demoralized by continually being accused by Mandela for being responsible for the violence that they lack the will to act.''
Western diplomats worry that rising tension in right-wing rural strongholds could soon erupt into open conflict between conservative whites and black militants in rural towns.