No blacks, not even 'stooges,' sign up to serve on S. African state body

EVen black South African leaders widely regarded by political militants here as "stooges" and "puppets" of the government, have rejected the government's proposals for trying to find an acceptable new political framework for the country.

Besides the exiting all-white Parliament -- elected by whites only -- the government proposes that there should be two advisory "councils" that would help it find an acceptable alternative to the present system of government, in which nobody has any effective say except the whites.

One of the two new bodies, called the President's Council, is due to have nominated representatives of the country's so-called Colored people (people of mixed race), the Asians, the tiny South African Chinese community, and the whites.

The second council would be a Black Council, the would consist of representatives of the African population, which is overwhelmingly the largest in South Africa.

Although it is generally agreed that the present political system should be changed, the government's plan for two advisory councils to help find an acceptable alternative has been rejected left and right.

Critics say that all races should be represented in the President's Council, and that the idea of corralling the Africans off into a separate council is simply an extension of the present system of apartheid -- the government's policy of enforced social, economic, and political racial segregation -- and consequently unacceptable.

The government has been warned also that its proposals could increase the polarization of races in the country.

Consequently important Colored and Asian leaders, spokesmen for urban blacks, and even the main white opposition party, the Progressive Federal Party, have refused to serve on the President's Council or the Black Council.

Now, in a formal statement after weekend talks, the elected leaders of all six of the separate "homelands" -- areas set aside for different African tribes (or "nations" as the government insists they are) -- have also turned the plan down.

Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, the leader of the Progressive Federal Party and the official leader of the opposition in Parliament, says that the rejection of the government's plans by the "homeland" leaders is the "final indication" that the plans are simply "not viable."

He said the only way the government could make its plans more acceptable would be to include the Africans in the President's Council, and scrap its proposals for a separate body for them.

The Progressive Federal Party would then reconsider its decision to boycott the President's Council. Other political leaders have indicated they would do the same.

However, although it is difficult to see where the government will be able to find anybody with real political credibility to serve on the two councils, it apparently intends to press ahead with its plans.

A special session of Parliament will be held later this year to introduce legislation to set up the new councils.

But the spokesmen for the "homeland" leaders, Prof. Hudson Ntsanwisi, warned that they were becoming "frustrated" because of their failure to influence the government, and said black leaders who reject violence and believe in compassion for both black and white would lose their influence among moderates as a result.

More people were beginning to believe that violence brought political results more quickly, because nonviolent approaches were being "ignored," he said.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.