Blacks and whites in South Africa's Natal Province, having announced a historic blueprint for sharing power, now face an uphill battle to sell the accord to the rest of the country. The accord, made public Friday, is a painstakingly assembled compromise in a nation where moderates - black and white - have been undercut by more than two years of political violence.
If the accord is implemented, Natal's white minority would almost certainly be ruled by a black ``prime minister,'' supported by a largely black upper chamber of parliament. Yet laws would also need the majority backing of a second chamber divided equally according to ethnic groupings: African, Asian, English, and Afrikaner. Additionally, any law directly affecting the language or the cultural or religious rights of a particular group would need that group's endorsement in parliament.
The system would, in effect, merge the governments of Natal and kwaZulu, the adjacent Zulu tribal homeland created under South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation.
Under South African law, the newly proposed Natal system requires a go-ahead from the national Parliament, in which the conservative, overwhelmingly white-Afrikaner party of President Pieter W. Botha holds a comfortable majority.
But Afrikaner representatives to the Natal conference - known as the Indaba, the Zulu idiom for ``discussion'' - declined to sign the constitutional blueprint.
``The present model,'' said one of the Afrikaner delegates, ``is not power-sharing, but a takeover'' by the Zulu-speaking blacks who account for some 80 percent of the province's population. Afrikaans-speaking whites account for only a small minority of whites in Natal.
From Lusaka, the exiled leadership of the anti-government African National Congress rejected the Natal agreement. The ANC, a spokesman was quoted as saying, is against separate regional moves to dismantle white rule. The ANC instead is demanding a one-man-one-vote system nationwide: that is, rule by South Africa's large black majority.
A retreat by the ANC, or an endorsement by the South African government, are seen as especially unlikely in the wake of Botha's June announcement of a nationwide state of emergency. This has been followed by the arrest, without charge, of thousands of black political activists. It has also coincided with moves by the government to turn back a political challenge from whites on the extreme right, who say that Botha's repeal of a number of race-segregation laws foreshadows a ``surrender'' to demands for black rule.
Botha has hinted he may seek a fresh mandate from the white electorate next year. Endorsement of the Indaba could lose him votes to rivals on the right.
When the Indaba began, most participants envisioned an accord much nearer ANC thinking. One participant, interviewed by the Monitor relatively early in the eight-month debate that produced Friday's announcement, said, ``We are intent that there should be no explicit provision for racial groupings in the system.'' He said that, instead, the rights and prerogatives of minority political parties would be guaranteed. The assumption was that, at least initially, separate groups - black, English-speaking whites, Indians, Afrikaner-speaking whites - would tend to vote for ethnically centered parties. Gradually, as the system proved to work, the ethnic nature of parties would erode.
The decision to create a second, ``ethnic'' chamber was a bid to assuage the misgivings of white conservatives - and, ultimately, to win national endorsement. As a concession to the original vision, a ``South African'' contingent - for those not wishing to be defined ethnically - has been included in the five equal groupings in the second chamber of the prospective provincial parliament.
The country's liberal Sunday Times newspaper, in an editorial, responded by endorsing this ``careful blend of interests'' and recommending government endorsement. ``The Indaba report,'' the paper said, ``may represent the best, and perhaps last, compromise [that] the people of this divided land can make over their political differences.''
This report was filed under South Africa's emergency regulations, which prohibit reporters from being ``within sight'' of any unrest, any ``restricted gathering,'' or any ``police actions''; from reporting on arrests made under the emergency regulations; and from relaying information deemed subversive.