MAINSTREAM South Africa has hailed the tentative agreement reached by the government and the African National Congress last week. The news has sent stock prices climbing on the bellwether Johannesburg exchange.
And after a marathon session running late into last Monday night, Parliament passed a bill empowering President Frederik de Klerk to grant ANC exiles temporary immunity or permanent indemnity against arrest or prosecution.
Also Monday, leading employers and representatives of anti-apartheid labor federations signed a historic agreement proposing amendments to controversial labor laws.
But last week's government-ANC accord also faces strong criticism from white right-wing parties and left-wing radical black groups.
Right-wing Conservative Party leader Andries Treurnicht says the ANC has already driven the government into a corner.
And the militant Azanian People's Organization says the government has succeeded in ``tying up the ANC in the perennial structures designed to delay the struggle.''
In a surprise move, former President Pieter Botha, himself a reformer, quit the ruling National Party in protest against what he called Mr. De Klerk's ``gradual abdication.''
Mr. Botha, in an interview with Rapport, an Afrikaans-language Sunday newspaper, said that the last straw was the inclusion of South African Communist Party Chief Joe Slovo in the ANC negotiating team.
Botha said he was in favor of what he called orderly reform but was totally opposed to communism: ``I do not believe that the ideologies of world communism have changed.''
But analysts say that the ex-president is motivated more by personal bitterness than by a major policy difference with his successor.
Noting that Botha had begun the dialogue with ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela, De Klerk said in a statement that he regretted he had to repudiate his predecessor.
``Nothing that the government is doing or saying is in conflict with the course followed by Botha,'' De Klerk said, adding that new circumstances demand different methods.
National Party legislators say that Botha's decision to quit the party will not have a major impact on De Klerk's support within the ruling party.
Government and ANC negotiators both have stressed a relationship of trust developing between the former adversaries.
The accord on removing obstacles to constitutional talks commits both parties to work toward ending violence, to find a formula granting amnesty to exiles and political prisoners, and to change security laws. Negotiators recognize that protracted bargaining lies ahead.
Mr. Mandela, addressing a crowd of about 40,000 supporters in Soweto Sunday, said he would urge De Klerk ``to abandon the concept of group rights or minority rights, without reservation.''
On Monday, De Klerk said that he was flexible on the issue of group rights but that, in his view, the diversity of the South African population was a reality that would have to be recognized in a future South African constitution.
He sees ``drastic differences'' between the government and ANC's constitutional visions, but says he hopes they can be resolved in the future at the negotiating table.