A ROLE for United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in efforts to coax the Pretoria government and the African National Congress (ANC) back to the negotiating table is apparently taking shape behind the scenes.
A UN spokeswoman confirmed late Wednesday that Mr. Boutros-Ghali had "accepted in principle" an invitation from South African Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha to visit the country, but no date has been set.
After resisting the move, the South African government appears to have acknowledged that foreign help is inevitable because of the high level of violence in black townships, highlighted by the June 17 massacre of at least 39 blacks in the Boipatong massacre in a township south of Johannesburg.
Western diplomatic sources said that Pretoria was prepared to discuss the involvement of up to 500 international monitors on condition that they enter the field with the security forces. But Pretoria was implacably opposed to a high-level international mission that would pass judgment on the government and the security forces from a distance, the diplomats said.
Western diplomats said efforts were being made to ensure that equal pressure was being applied to both the major players in the South African conflict.
"The ANC is in for a sobering lesson that it no longer occupies - automatically - the moral high ground in the political power struggle," said one diplomat.
"On the other hand, [President Frederik] de Klerk is going to have to realize that he will have to do something concrete to end the political violence - and perceptions that forces loyal to the government are involved in promoting it," the diplomat
The UN spokeswoman says that a Security Council meeting on South Africa is likely. A diplomatic source told the Monitor that July 10 had been "pencilled in" for the meeting.
Boutros-Ghali is due to report back to members of the Council today. He met yesterday in London with British Prime Minister John Major, who has emerged as a key player in the diplomacy.
Following the Boipatong massacre, ANC President Nelson Mandela telephoned Boutros-Ghali in New York and asked to address a special meeting of the UN Security Council.
Part of the UN chief's response was to hold talks with Mr. Botha in Abuja, Nigeria, over the weekend and later with Mr. Mandela - at the summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Dakar, Senegal.
The OAU summit passed a resolution this week mandating African foreign ministers to call a security council meeting to discuss the South African political crisis. The OAU also is expected to send its own monitoring group to South Africa to investigate the upsurge in violence.
This followed the ANC's decision last week to withdraw from interracial negotiations with the government until a list of demands relating to the government's alleged role in political violence has been met.
Meanwhile, the Pretoria government has initiated a series of steps to bolster the country's own independent Goldstone Commission into township violence. The investigating body visited Boipatong yesterday.
The government also handed its formal response yesterday to the ANC on its demands to end violence as a condition to returning to the negotiating table. Both sides were due to make public statements on the government's report late yesterday.
But the atmosphere of distrust between the two parties continues to intensify.
Police fired on 15,000 angry demonstrators at a Congress of South African Trade Unions march Wednesday.
COSATSU, which is closely allied to the ANC, has called for a nationwide strike August 3, blaming the government for the failed negotiations and township violence.
Two days earlier, at a funeral service for victims of Boipatong Monday, black groups revitalized the so-called Patriotic Front. Leaders of the ANC, the more extreme Pan Africanist Congress, and the Azanian People's Organization have declared they would end their differences and campaign against the government with mass demonstrations, stay-aways, and strikes. There were also calls at the funeral for De Klerk's resignation.
But in an apparent softening of its hard-line position, the ANC backed down Wednesday from its call for another international sports boycott.