PRESIDENT Bill Clinton will hold separate meetings in the White House Oval Office today with President Frederik de Klerk and African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela, as negotiators here meet to conclude a phased transition to democracy.
On Sunday, the two South African leaders will jointly receive the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia with President Clinton in attendance.
But the long-awaited meeting with Clinton is unlikely to signal the end of financial sanctions against South Africa by the United States Congress and about 140 US city and state governments. Nor is the status of South African negotiations likely to elicit a strong statement of support for investment by the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized countries, which meet in Tokyo July 7-9.
``If the South African leaders had come to Washington with an agreed package on a transition to democracy, the G-7 summit would have pulled out all the stops in urging its members to invest,'' says a Western diplomat. ``Now the best that can be hoped for is a broad statement of encouragement to the leaders to reach agreement.''
Western impatience with negotiations was articulated Monday in Brussels by Hans van den Broek, the European Community (EC) foreign affairs commissioner, when he warned that South Africa risked plunging deeper into violence and poverty - and losing the interest of the world - unless it made rapid progress in negotiations. ``The more protracted the negotiations, the more danger there is of rampant violence filling the political vacuum,'' he said.
Mr. Mandela said last week that he would not ask for the lifting of sanctions until a bill has been passed defining the powers of the interim commission that will rule the country until an election, or until that commission is up and running. This dashed earlier hopes in diplomatic and political circles that he would use the Clinton meeting to call for the lifting of sanctions, including the Gramm Amendment, which prevents the US representative on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund from a pproving loans to South Africa.
``It is a missed opportunity rather than a calamity,'' says another Western diplomat close to the talks. ``We are still hopeful that important agreements on the transition to democracy will be reached [today].''
Western diplomats say they hope negotiators at the 26-party negotiating forum here will agree on April 27, 1994, as the target date for the country's first democratic ballot. They are also hopeful that agreement can be reached today on a detailed set of constitutional principles and on the process to be used to draw up a transitional constitution.
PARTIES reached a breakthrough compromise Wednesday in the protracted deadlock between the ANC and the ruling National Party, on one hand, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and its right-wing allies, on the other, over the principle of strong regional government. They have agreed that the boundaries, powers, and functions of semi-autonomous regions will be written into a transitional constitution. The interim constitution will also provide for elections for regional legislatures at the same time as a n ational ballot.
``This constitutes the first real compromise,'' one diplomat says. ``It means that the ANC will get their elected constitution-making body while the IFP will get their insistence on federalism entrenched before the election.''
Mandela indicated that he would use the meeting with Clinton to ask for substantial funds for development in housing, education, and employment, where four decades of apartheid have left a legacy of severe deprivation. The US currently spends $80 million a year on bilateral aid to South Africa, and US officials have indicated it is unlikely there will be any immediate increase.
South Africa stands to benefit from about $1 billion in development loans from the World Bank, although it is likely to take a year to 18 months to process them. Mandela said he would propose that the World Bank prepare for development projects but not implement them. But the prospect for substantial foreign investment in the present climate of political violence and instability is bleak, economists say. Business confidence indicators are at an all-time low, as the country struggles to emerge from a prol onged economic recession.
ANC officials said Mandela would also be seeking to raise around $30 million for the ANC's election campaign during a 10-day fund-raising tour of Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. President de Klerk will meet with World Bank President Lewis Preston and International Monetary Fund director Michel Camdessus in Washington.