Mandela Offers Amnesty As Key to Reconciliation

AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela, due to be sworn in as South Africa's first black leader on May 10, has set national reconciliation and nation-building as the priority themes of the incoming coalition government.

In a bold effort to heal the wounds of the past, Mr. Mandela has ruled out Nuremburg-style trials for those who committed crimes in defense of apartheid and has approved an amnesty deal based on secret disclosure of offenses committed prior to December 1993.

In a series of interviews with newspapers and state-run television over the weekend, Mandela stressed the need to retain the confidence of the white minority and international investors to help build a new nation.

He also affirmed the importance of the security forces and the civil service in the national unity government and said that the amnesty deal should help create stability and win the confidence of civil servants.

The ANC wants to set up a commission along the lines of the truth commission in Chile, he said, but it does not intend to punish people for past political crimes. All Mandela was asking of those who committed crimes in the name of apartheid, he says, was what has been required of anti-apartheid members who have returned to the country since October 1990.

Mandela said those who had committed crimes before that date would be granted amnesty on disclosure of their offenses. Amnesty for crimes committed between 1990 and December 1993 would be dealt with by the new parliament, he added. (Diplomats say that a deal has already been struck and will be announced within the next six weeks.) Those who committed crimes after December 1993 would be subject to the law.

Mandela has stressed the importance of the ANC's reconstruction and development program - a detailed program for socioeconomic development to eradicate the legacy of the apartheid years - in promoting reconciliation.

He has also emphasized his interest in seeing that whites continue to have a stake in the country and government.

The ANC leader told the Sunday Times of Johannesburg, the country's major weekly newspaper, that he would recommend that the present governor of the country's central bank stay on.

``If there is anything I am conscious about, it is not to frighten the minorities, especially the white minority. Even those who have left ... we would like them to come back, '' Mandela said.

He has also hinted that he would like to see at least four white ministers in the cabinet of the Transitional Government of National Unity.

He stressed that President Frederik de Klerk will have the full powers of a deputy president, and that his experience in government will be ``useful.'' Mandela will meet Mr. De Klerk tomorrow to begin tough negotiations on forming a coalition cabinet.

At his final news conference before the ballot, Mandela emphasized that the task of the national unity government would be to bring together people of different political persuasions and create mutual trust: ``On major issues, we must speak with one voice. This places a great deal of responsibility on the majority party to lead the country away from the past and remove the atmosphere of insecurity among the minorities.''

Mandela also took a conciliatory stance toward extreme right-wing groups that boycotted the poll and are threatening violence. ``Those who want to disrupt things are a tiny minority,'' he said in a Saturday TV interview, referring to threats by the right-wing Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) to declare war against the new government.

``The AWB has become a small, isolated group even among Afrikaners,'' he said. ``They are not in a position to carry out any threat. Let the past be the past - let us promote reconciliation.''

Since a spate of right-wing bomb blasts on the eve of the ballot, the ANC has praised the actions of the security forces.

``If the perpetrators of these acts of terrorism had enjoyed the support of structures within the security establishment, they would have been much worse,'' senior ANC candidate Jay Naidoo says. ``We are convinced that we can work together with the existing security forces to build trust in them and in a new South Africa.''

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