THE unity of purpose that has sustained the banned African National Congress through three decades in exile is coming under new pressure as negotiation vies with armed struggle as the preferred strategy to end four decades of apartheid. While ANC politicians are becoming enmeshed in the intricacies of pre-negotiation with South Africa's white rulers, ANC military leaders expressed doubts about the bona fides of the government and stressed the need to escalate the 29-year-old armed struggle against Pretoria. A surge of expectancy followed an emotive reunion at Lusaka airport Monday of eight recently freed ANC leaders, relatives, and colleagues who had not seen each other for a quarter of a century. The group was led by Walter Sisulu, a key ANC figure.
The 1,500 or so exiles in this African capital have begun to talk openly about the prospect of returning to their fatherland in the near future.
But underlying the air of jubilation was a sobriety born of an understanding that pressure will have to be intensified before President Frederik de Klerk agrees to negotiate on the basis of a genuine democracy in South Africa.
``We are calling on the ANC, Umkhonto We Sizwe (the ANC's military wing), the Mass Democratic Movement, and the international community to intensify the struggle against apartheid, even if there appears to be a lessening of tension at home,'' Mr. Sisulu told about 600 ANC members at a reception here on Wednesday. ``If we do not follow this course, the South African regime will dominate.''
Sisulu's call, the boldest he has made since his release four months ago, echoed a statement by acting ANC leader Alfred Nzo at the 78th anniversary of the ANC earlier this month.
Exiled ANC leaders battled to contain the excitement of the crowds as the people cheered, danced, and chanted liberation songs.
``I bring you greetings from Nelson Mandela,'' said Sisulu, referring to the jailed ANC veteran who has been holding talks with senior South African officials about creating a climate for negotiations. Sisulu's message struck an introspective note at times and lacked the strident rhetoric to which the ANC rank and file has become accustomed.
``When there are mistakes made in an organization, it must be prepared to correct them,'' he said without elaborating. ``People must be prepared to be criticized and to take it. ...
``Criticism and self-criticism are the only way in which we can bring about success.''
ANC leaders readily concede that Mr. De Klerk's tentative version of glasnost (openness) presented them with a new challenge.
De Klerk has already met some of the conditions set by the ANC for entering negotiations.
ANC leaders expect that he will soon meet the remaining conditions by freeing Mr. Mandela, legalizing the ANC, and lifting a nationwide state of emergency that has been in place for nearly four years.
But few ANC leaders believe he is prepared to move beyond a vision of South Africa's future based on racial groups.
``I don't think we are close to a political solution,'' says Joe Modise, commander of the ANC's military wing. ``De Klerk wants negotiations on the basis of apartheid and that's a nonstarter.''
He says the ANC has scored an ``enormous advantage'' by succeeding in winning unanimous support at the United Nations General Assembly last month for its negotiating position as set out in the so-called Harare declaration of the 50-nation Organization of African Unity.
The ANC's 29-year-old armed struggle has targeted mainly economic and military installations, but has failed to make a major impact against the might of the South African military machine.
In recent months, talk of negotiations has unsettled the 6,000 ANC cadres who make up the exiled army.
``We are busy explaining to our cadre that negotiations do not cancel out armed struggle,'' Mr. Modise told the Monitor. ``The diplomatic struggle is part of the overall struggle.''
An article in Umkhonto (the journal of the military wing) stresses the need for building an underground army inside the country.
``Should we ever enter a negotiating process, our popular armed potential must not be limited to externally trained Umkhonto cadres,'' the journal says.
The ANC's tough position on keeping up military pressure was highlighted by an interchange between Sisulu and Jeffery Davidow, the United States ambassador to Zambia, at a ceremony here marking the birthday of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Davidow said in an opening speech that he saw the occasion as one to reflect on the merits of nonviolence.
``Dr. King's message is admittedly a difficult one for us to accept, confronted as we are by opponents who seem intransigent or impervious to reason,'' he said. ``But we all recognize that even in the most bitter of conflicts, there comes a time when fighting must end and peace can be found.''
Sisulu also paid a glowing tribute to King, but embraced him in the tradition of a Solomon Mahlangu, a martyr of the ANC's military struggle. ``In Martin Luther King, we saw a prophet of African liberation,'' said Sisulu.
Leaders of the ANC's political wing say that De Klerk's recent political initiatives have opened up opportunities for advancing the organization's struggle for racial equality.
``If De Klerk shows he is willing to move towards genuine democracy, we are ready to move with him,'' says Joe Slovo, ANC executive member and chairman of the allied South African Communist Party.
But Chris Hani, Umkhonto chief of staff told the Monitor, ``There is a need for a lot more military pressure. ... We cannot afford to enter negotiations from a position of weakness.''
ANC military leaders say that the currently diminishing level of armed activity inside the country is not a matter of policy. They say it reflects logistical problems exacerbated by the US-brokered accord on Namibian independence, which forced the ANC to shift its military camps from Angola to more remote countries like Uganda and Ethiopia.