South Africa's De Klerk Floats Plan for Transition

Concession to ANC appears motivated by need for international aid

THE Pretoria government is considering an "interim authority" to win international backing during the transition to majority rule and secure access to foreign loans and capital, a government official says.The idea of a statutory authority to govern the country during political negotiations falls short of the sovereign "interim government" demanded by the African National Congress (ANC) but goes further than the "transitional arrangements" President Frederik de Klerk has referred to recently. The interim authority would have to be created by legislation, according to the official, and would mean a substantial change to the existing Constitution. But it would not require the suspension of the Constitution, which Mr. De Klerk has ruled out. The need to unlock much-needed foreign loans and investment, end remaining trade and financial sanctions, and regain access to international and African forums was the overriding factor in persuading Pretoria to edge closer to the ANC's vision of an interim government. Commonwealth Foreign Ministers gave the green light for the lifting of travel, scientific, and cultural sanctions at a meeting in New Delhi Sept. 14.

Hopes for loans Those in government circles hope an internationally accepted interim authority would open the door to loans from the World Bank and lead to South Africa's readmission to the United Nations General Assembly and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) next year and to the 50-nation Commonwealth by 1993. Following the signing of the National Peace Accord Sept. 14, De Klerk hinted at a shift in government thinking on the issue of an interim government. The key question to be decided, he said, was whether the eventual system of government would be based on a winner-takes-all or a power-sharing model. In calling for an interim government, the ANC was calling for a system of power-sharing during the transition, he said. This contrasts with the ANC's calls for eventual majority rule. "If power-sharing can work for an interim government, why can't it work for a government?" De Klerk asked. In an interview Sunday on state-run television, De Klerk for the first time raised the prospect of substantial changes to the Constitution to set up an interim arrangement. He said one option "would be to amend the Constitution and then make provision for whatever is agreed on [between the parties] and to implement it." He said that any change to the Constitution would mean a national referendum including a specific mandate from whites to proceed with such changes. De Klerk said the National Peace Accord signed last weekend was an example of how those excluded from Parliament could be given a say during the interim phase without undermining the authority of government or suspending the Constitution. The peace accord creates mechanisms that involve civilians in the monitoring and investigation of police activities and give them an equal say in formulating future policing policy. De Klerk said the peace accord had set the stage for an all-party conference and full constitutional negotiations. "I have reason to believe that we will get the multiparty conference off the ground before the end of this year," De Klerk said. The shift in government thinking on the nature of an interim administration coincides with predictions by some political analysts that the transition could last longer than three to five years. "The best kept secret of the National Party's constitutional proposals is that they are suggestions for structuring an interim form of rule, not a final constitution," University of Cape Town political scientist Herman Giliomee wrote in a recent column in the Johannesburg-based daily newspaper, the Star. The National Party's much-maligned proposals for a revolving presidency could provide the formula for executive power-sharing during the transitional phase. The ANC has ruled out a revolving president for the final constitution but is prepared to discuss such an arrangement for the interim.

Lifting sanctions After signing the peace accord, ANC President Nelson Mandela said that the ANC would be prepared to discuss the lifting of remaining sanctions once a relationship of trust existed with the government and De Klerk was prepared to commit to a fully democratic, nonracial constitution. He also hinted that the ANC would scale down mass protests if the accord worked. At a recent conference of the Africa Leadership Forum in Windhoek, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler of Nigeria, suggested that South Africa's acceptance as a member to the OAU would provide a convenient landmark for funds to flow into South Africa. Stephen Denning, the director of the World Bank's Southern Africa Department, said the Bank awaits the signal from the major parties before getting involved in South Africa. Political analyst Frederik van Zyl Slabbert told the conference that the fact sanctions were being lifted indicated African governments were coming to accept that criteria other than a straight transfer of power would have to be used to determine South Africa's acceptability into the African and international community. "South Africa's transition is forcing a redefinition of relationships with nations and agencies, not only toward South Africa but amongst themselves," he said. But he added that each country would interpret South Africa's progress according to its own needs and pressures for change. "Increasingly, South Africa and other countries in Africa are beginning to experience the same international pressures: increasing marginalization, demands for good governance, and sound management of the economy."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to South Africa's De Klerk Floats Plan for Transition
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today