MILITANT youth from South Africa's largest black youth organization have given qualified support to the negotiation plans of the African National Congress. But leaders of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) will also maintain pressure on the ANC leadership to advocate hardline policies. At the first national conference of the SAYCO last weekend, ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela appeared to successfully assert his influence over the radical youths in a display of unity.
SAYCO was formed underground three years ago during a harsh nationwide emergency, and its estimated 500,000 members represent the militant spearhead of the country's 8 million or so black youths (see story on left).
Amid war dances and military slogans, the 1,200 delegates - known as ``young lions'' - vowed to help rebuild the ANC inside the country, submitting themselves to Mr. Mandela's authority.
But the sentiment and language of the delegates still displayed a deep distrust of negotiations and a preference for the military struggle.
``Change in South Africa is inevitable,'' conceded SAYCO President Peter Mokaba in a speech to the conference. ``But the routes it may take are many and varied. It may come through negotiations, popular insurrection, or a combination of both.''
Mindful of the youths' skepticism about talks, Mandela said: ``We must be clear that negotiations do not mean the end of struggle. They are a continuation of struggle and become possible because of the advances we have scored.''
Mr. Mokaba said in an interview that winning youth support for talks was not a problem as long as other forms of struggle continued.
``We cannot switch off the heat when the water is about to boil,'' he said. ``We want it to boil. We must turn the heat up now.''
In a speech delivered after Mandela's departure, Mokaba departed from his prepared text to urge SAYCO members to join Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), and said it would be disastrous to dismantle the ANC's military wing before ``power has been transferred to the people. Underground structures must be strengthened now and immediately after the seizure of power,'' he said.
In contrast, Mandela spoke earlier of ``power sharing,'' and denounced all forms of violence and coercion in propagating the ANC cause.
Mokaba echoed Mandela's call for SAYCO to join with the exiled ANC Youth Section to revitalize the dormant ANC Youth League.
While stopping short of recommending the disbanding of SAYCO, Mokaba urged individual members to join the ANC and said SAYCO had entered a period of restructuring. ``The need is to create one youth political center, and the ANC Youth League must become such a center,'' Mokaba said.
Anti-apartheid groups inside the country will face key decisions at the first ANC conference scheduled to be held in December.
Although many internal groups are impatient to merge with the ANC, exiled ANC leaders are urging them to retain an independent organizational base until the ANC has returned from exile and reestablished itself.
Mandela - referred to by Mokaba as ``Comrade-Commander'' - was greeted by delegates with the traditional war dance of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
``We are your storm troopers ... We have no qualms in taking commands from you,'' Mokaba told Mandela. Mandela's speech skillfully blended praise for the youth with a stern call for discipline and tolerance. Mandela acknowledged the central role played by black youth in the liberation struggle.
He raised loud cheers when he denounced unpopular leaders of tribal homeland regimes who refused to heed their people and align themselves with the ANC.
Referring to President Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana - one of only a few remaining homeland leaders not to have submitted to the ANC - Mandela said: ``If any chief decides to be a tyrant and takes decisions for his people he will come to a tragic end.''
Mandela did not mention Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi by name, but Mokaba made it clear that SAYCO would not tolerate reconciliation with the controversial Zulu leader.
``There is no way we can win Gatsha back. He is a lost cause,'' said Mokaba to wild applause.
Mandela used his authority with the the ``young lions'' to urge discipline and tolerance of the views of others and commanded them to halt attacks against members of rival anti-apartheid movements.
``We do not wish to force people into our organization,'' said Mandela. ``Any form of violence or coercion is against the policy of the ANC ... If you are not disciplined, you cannot hope to win our confidence,'' he said.
Mandela used the platform to issue a stern warning to President Frederick de Klerk to curb the actions of his police force and to limit white right-wing vigilantes.
``If President De Klerk continues to sit down with his arms folded while police are shooting our people - and while right-wingers are defiantly marching and shooting innocent people - then negotiations in this country have no future whatsoever,'' Mandela said.