SIGNIFICANT movement toward a transition government in South Africa has occurred despite a recent scandal that had appeared to undercut prospects for talks between the African National Congress and Pretoria government.Moves by the ANC have successfully exploited the weakness of the Pretoria government, which has been battered by the the scandal. Showing its flexibility, the ANC set aside its own objections to talks, and in so doing appears to have made negotiations to create a new government more likely. The ANC and Pretoria government now agree that negotiations about a transitional authority should top the agenda of an all-party conference to be convened as soon as possible. While the ANC continues to talk of an "interim government of national unity" President Frederik de Klerk refers to "transitional arrangements" that would limit the powers of government during the transition period. Yet political analysts say there is sufficient room for compromise, and that it may be possible to fashion an interim administration that would rule the country while representatives of the population draw up a new constitution. The ANC's major concession to speed up the convening of an all-party conference included placing remaining obstacles to talks on one side. The shift came in the wake of the slush-fund scandal that revealed the Pretoria government had secretly given funds to black political allies like the Inkatha Freedom Party. "I think we could be looking at an all-party conference as early as November or December," said one ANC official close to the behind-the-scenes talks. In another act that could improve the climate for negotiations, the ANC has indicated that Chris Hani, chief of staff of its military wing, would not be allocated a portfolio in the ANC's 26-person National Working Committee pending a request from the South African Communist Party (SACP) for him to be relieved of all ANC duties. A senior Communist Party official told the Monitor yesterday that Mr. Hani, an ANC hawk who also serves on the SACP politburo, was likely to take over from Joe Slovo, a Lithuanian-born white South African, as SACP general secretary at its first legal national conference in December. Hani's removal from the ANC would serve to ease relations with government officials who have always seen him as one of the most radical influences in the ANC. In another move, the ANC appointed Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa, a highly respected former trade union leader, to head the negotiation commission coordinating negotiating strategy, prepare members of the rank and file, and involve them in the process. Progress also has been made in church-sponsored all-party peace talks that include representatives of the government, the ANC, the Inkatha Freedom Party, businessmen, and church leaders. Working groups of the peace committee have been meeting throughout the "Inkathagate" scandal and, according to delegates, have made rapid progress on formulating codes of conduct for parties and security forces.
Scandal 'a blessing' Government and ANC officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a broad degree of consensus has been reached on the mechanics of setting up such a conference. The funding scandal has weakened the government's claim to run the government during a political transition and has strengthened the ANC's insistence on an interim government. "I think we will look back and acknowledge that the funding scandal was a blessing in disguise," says liberal Democratic Party legislator Jacobus Jordaan. "It has cleared the air and allowed De Klerk to put his own stamp on the Cabinet." In his speech Mr. De Klerk appeared to soften his resistance to the ANC call for an interim government and stressed that he was prepared to prioritize negotiation of "transitional arrangements." "I have an open mind on alternative methods," said De Klerk. "As far as I am concerned, they may be the first item on the agenda [of an all-party conference]."
Formula for transition Significantly, De Klerk also said that it would be up to the conference to elect its chairman and formulate its own rules. The government did not seek to dominate the conference, he said. The formula for transitional rule being examined by constitutional experts from both the government and the ANC is to transform the all-party conference into an interim administration. In terms of the plan, the present sovereign Parliament - which excludes representation for the black majority - would agree to subject itself to the authority of the all-party conference for all major government decisions. It would convene only in the event of having to pass emergency legislation and then only with the consent of the all-party conference. In effect, the all-party conference, which would include the ruling National Party and other major parties, would act as interim government. In terms of the existing constitution, Parliament can remain dormant for up to 13 months at a time without its formal suspension or dissolution. The all-party conference would have to sanction the appointment of representative committees to establish the principle of joint decisionmaking in government at the national, regional and local levels. Joint control of the security forces and electoral procedures would be prioritized. Mr. Jordaan, the Democratic Party legislator, says the government has been examining options for transition since 1984. He says that underlying the preoccupation with a transitional government is a tacit admission in informed official circles that the present government cannot manage the transition alone.