A NEW campaign of terror targeting white South Africans could bring the majority of whites and the African National Congress closer together and hasten a political deal between government and the ANC, Western diplomats say.
"As the old Chinese proverb says: My enemy's enemy is my friend," a Western diplomat said in an interview.
Evidence of such a unifying effect came swiftly as the National Party government joined with the African National Congress and international community in condemning the terror campaign conducted by the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), the military wing of the Pan-Africanist Congress. The PAC is a militant rival of the ANC.
"The forces of peace are too strong to be thrown off course," said ANC President Nelson Mandela at a Dec. 7 news conference in Maputo, Mozambique. "Real progress" had been made at a three-day summit between government and the ANC, Mr. Mandela said, vowing that the PAC attacks would not derail the negotiations.
President Frederik de Klerk said after a two-day Cabinet meeting that the government was considering "urgent steps" to prevent the APLA from carrying out its threat of a Christmas bombing campaign against civilians. Mr. De Klerk did not elaborate, but the ANC, human rights groups, and the mainstream English language press urged the government not to resort to outlawing the PAC or APLA. A plethora of white right-wing groups vowed to avenge the death of whites.
PAC leaders have in the past walked a fine line between a militant membership and the government by not endorsing APLA violence. But the PAC now appears to have closed ranks with its military wing amid signs of division within PAC leadership ranks, analysts and PAC officials say.
PAC spokesman Waters Toboti said Dec. 8 that the APLA was "an integral part of the PAC" and that if the government wanted to abort the Dec. 9 meeting with the PAC leadership that was "their own indaba [business]."
The Dec. 8 talks were seen as a culmination of months of bilateral talks between the PAC and the government viewed as crucial in preparing the ground for PAC's inclusion in multiparty talks. Christmas party attack
In a telephone conversation with the South African Press Association (SAPA) Dec. 6, a man claiming to be an APLA military intelligence deputy commander, said that APLA had declared war on all whites and would target Cabinet ministers for assassination. He said whites were legitimate targets because they "form part and parcel of the oppressive regime."
APLA has said it will cease attacks only when South African Defense Force troops are confined to barracks and police activities limited to fighting crime. A grenade and automatic weapon attack on a Christmas party at a King William's Town sports club Nov. 28 killed four whites and injured 17. In the past the APLA has not claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians.
After the attack, the government suspended talks with the PAC until its leadership unequivocally condemned the violence. The PAC had in the past committed itself to peaceful talks. Until Dec. 7, however, PAC leaders had refused to condone or condemn the attacks insisting that the APLA was constitutionally separate from the PAC. Showdown within PAC leadership
"It is clear that there is a showdown brewing between a section of the PAC's political leadership and its military leadership," says Wim Booyse, a political analyst.
But Mr. Booyse says that APLA should not be underestimated. He notes that the wave of publicity surrounding the APLA since the two recent attacks on whites plays into the hands of the PAC, which had been marginalized in the negotiations.
"It has put them on the map and could strengthen their bargaining power at the negotiating table," he says. The PAC receives funds and military training from Libya and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front in Ethiopia, mainland China, Iran, and Zimbabwe.
"The majority of black people sympathize with APLA's position that only when whites are killed is violence taken seriously," says Johannes Rantete, author of a study on the PAC. "But the APLA action has also put the PAC in a very difficult decision. If it supports APLA's action it is in breach of the law and if it condemns the action in opens a rift in the organization."
PAC Secretary-General Bennie Alexander raised the political temperature surrounding the attacks Dec. 5-6 when he claimed the APLA was funded through the liberation committee of the 50-nation Organization of African Unity. But the OAU repesentative in South Africa, Legwaile J. Legwaile, repudiated the APLA Dec. 7, denying Mr. Alexander's claim regarding OAU funding.
"It never implied supporting attacks on innocent people and soft civilian targets as occurred last week," he said.
The United Nations observer mission in South Africa, in a joint statement with the OAU, the Commonwealth, and the European Community, condemned the APLA threats. The UN, apparently responding to a recent appeal by Judge Richard Goldstone for an inquiry into political violence linked to the APLA, has urged the PAC leadership to cooperate with the judge.