In an eagerly awaited speech last night, South African President Pieter W. Botha backed away from earlier indications that he would announce significant reforms. Instead, President Botha restated his existing racial policies, which have included some departures from traditional apartheid, castigated critics at home and abroad, and questioned the role of news media in reporting violence in the rebellious black townships.
Botha's speech failed to meet the demands of even the most moderate elements of the black political spectrum in South Africa.
Opening the Natal Congress of his ruling National Party, Mr. Botha did, however, concede that blacks who are not citizens of the four nominally independent ``black homelands'' are ``a part of the South African nation.'' And, he added, these blacks ``should be accommodated within political institutions within the boundaries of South Africa.''
But he firmly rejected the concept of ``one man, one vote,'' contending that it would lead to domination of one race over another and, through that, to chaos. Under the current system, Indians and people of mixed race have representation in Parliament but blacks do not.
While committing himself to negotiations to satisfy the political aspirations of urban blacks living permanently in white-designated areas of South Africa, Botha made it clear that ``homeland leaders'' -- whom most urban blacks reject -- would be included in any future political structures.
Just before Botha began his speech, the government clamped a curfew on the nation's biggest black township, Soweto. The order came in the wake of continued arson and violence despite the imposition of a state of emergency more than three weeks ago.
Also, Canada announced Thursday it was recalling its ambassador from South Africa for consultations.
In his speech, Botha repeated his stand that jailed black leader Nelson Mandela would not be released from jail until he renounced violence. Mr. Mandela is leader of the outlawed African National Congress, which seeks to end white-minority rule in South Africa.
Mandela's stated reason for refusing to renounce violence is Botha's failure to lift the ban on the ANC, which the ANC claims led it to turn to violence.
Earlier in his talk, Botha had attacked South Africa's enemies ``within and without,'' accusing them of trying to wreck the negotiations to peaceful settlement to which, he said, he was committed.
``Peaceful negotiation is their enemy,'' he said.
Botha then put a ``specific question'' to the media. ``How do they explain the fact that they are always present, with cameras et ectera, at places where violence takes place? Are there people from the revolutionary elements who inform them to be ready? Or are there perhaps representatives of the reactionary [sic] groups in the ranks of the media?''
While conceding that some of those offering advice from abroad were well-meaning, Botha said others were not.
``I receive advice from some people who want to help me from the frying pan into the fire.''
Botha did, however, reaffirm his commitment to his ``reform'' program. ``My government and I are determinated to press ahead with our reform program. . . . We can and will resolved our problems by peaceful means.''
Botha dealt with requests from men with the political clout of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, chief minister of KwaZulu homeland, for a declaration of intent that would commit Botha to power-sharing.
His response was to reaffirm his belief that the granting of ``independence'' to the ``black homelands'' represented a ``material part of the solution'' to South Africa's problems.
He added that blacks who choose not to accept independence were South African citizens and a place would have to found for them -- through negotiations -- within the political institutions of South Africa, as distinct from those of the 10 ``homelands.''