NELSON MANDELA, the African National Congress leader freed last weekend, is charting a firm course to get South Africa's white rulers to the negotiating table. ``I have made it clear that the armed struggle will never be suspended - to say nothing of it being stopped - until a settlement is reached,'' said Mr. Mandela in an interview in the garden of his tiny Soweto home in Vilakazi Street.
``That is the policy of the ANC and we will follow it to the end,'' he said. Mandela was answering questions about assertions he made in several television interviews Wednesday.
He said that government installations were legitimate targets for ANC guerrillas and that, while civilians were not a target, whites could get caught in the cross-fire.
Yesterday Mandela said that those remarks were directed at what had happened in the past rather than what might happen in the future.
``But you must be careful of being more worried about the violence that comes from the oppressed and saying little - or nothing at all - about the violence that comes from the government,'' he said yesterday.
``They [the government] have closed all channels of communication. They have intensified the pressures. What does the world expect us to do in that situation?''
Mandela conceded that the transformation to a nonracial society had already begun with the desegregation of beaches, and some schools and residential areas, but added that there had been no fundamental change during his 27 years in jail.
He said there was no indication that the government was committed to a genuine sharing of political power with blacks in a way that would be acceptable to blacks.
Mandela said that the main objective was to establish a democratic legislative body in which all South Africans were represented proportional to their numbers. This could be achieved only through democratic elections for a body to draw up a new constitution, he said.
Mandela has been careful, since his release, to stick strictly within the confines of ANC policy, dashing expectations in some political and diplomatic circles that he could opt to continue the mediating role he played in jail.
Pretoria has called on the ANC to reassess its policies - such as sanctions and the armed struggle - and match the ``meaningful steps'' recently taken by President Frederik de Klerk.
Mandela said that the government had not taken all the steps recommended by the ANC to normalize the political situation. These include the lifting of a nationwide emergency and the release of all political prisoners. ``We would like to move away from the situation of conflict and confrontation,'' he said.
Significantly, the government has interpreted Mandela's apparently contradictory stance on armed struggle as a clear indication that he is in favor of peaceful negotiations.
As Mandela spoke, the executive of the African National Congress entered the second day of talks in Lusaka, Zambia, to formulate a response to Mr. De Klerk's recent political initiative.
The ANC will decide what role Mandela is to play, when and how its exiles will return, and whether the necessary conditions have been created yet to suspend its 29-year-old armed struggle.
Government officials have welcomed Mandela's commitment to a solution that addressed white fears of black domination, his optimism about a negotiated settlement, and his description of De Klerk as a ``man of integrity.''
But they have described as ``naive'' his hard-line stance on the nationalization of mines and banks.
His stand on nationalization has sparked a heated response here and abroad and has been cited by analysts as the reason for a sharp drop in the value of stocks and the South African rand over the past few days.
Finance Minister Barend du Plessis, speaking in Parliament Wednesday, accused Mandela of ``loose talk'' and said that the ANC's economic policies amounted to nothing other than theft.
Mandela conceded yesterday that, to whites, these policies might seem out of step with the times, given the changing mood in Eastern Europe.
But he said there were many sectors of the South African economy that were already nationalized.
``Now that the challenge from blacks seems to be so strong that the possibility of blacks taking part in government has become almost a reality, the whites are now changing,'' he said.
``They are saying: now let's privatize because they want to keep wealth for themselves. We can't take advantage of privatization. They can.''
On the issue of sanctions, Mandela warned that the British government should not act unilaterally in lifting sanctions, but rather, act in concert with European Community.
``There is no need to review the question of sanctions at all, because the conditions for which sanctions are being applied still exist,'' he said.
On the question of negotiations and accommodating white fears of black domination, Mandela said he did not think he and De Klerk were speaking the same language.
``De Klerk is thinking of solutions which have a racial element,'' Mandela said.
``We are thinking in terms of nonracial solutions.''
Mandela said there would have to be an end to the white monopoly on political power, but that this should be done gradually so as to ensure the minimum disruption.