THE agreement by negotiators on a multiracial commission to govern the country until the first democratic election next April has been broadly welcomed by the international community, but received a mixed response within South Africa.
The first involvement of blacks in a body overseeing actions of the white-ruled parliament is a momentous step that has led some countries to promise an end to economic sanctions. But it does not resolve basic issues that have kept key players out of the negotiation process and perpetuated political violence here.
This fact was underscored on Wednesday by what appeared to be a politically inspired massacre in response to the agreement. Unidentified gunmen fired automatic weapons randomly into lines of people waiting for taxi vans in Wadeville township, east of Johannesburg, leaving 21 people dead and 22 wounded. This raised to more than 100 the number of people killed since the launch of a national peace campaign on Sept. 2.
Draft legislation for the proposed multiracial commission, which must still pass through the white-dominated Parliament, cannot be implemented until negotiators agree on a transitional constitution. The interim constitution will govern the country until a final constitution is agreed upon by an elected assembly after the April ballot. The constitution will then be passed by another special session of Parliament - probably in November.
Fundamental differences remain between two major groupings of parties over whether power should be vested in a central government or devolved to semiautonomous regions. Two parties that insist on stronger regional powers - the right-wing Conservative Party and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) - have withdrawn from the talks and vowed not to cooperate in the multiracial Transitional Executive Council (TEC).
Conservative leader Ferdie Hartzenberg has threatened civil war if the draft bill is passed into law, but Gen. Constand Viljoen, a more moderate leader of the umbrella Afrikaner Volksfront, said he is hopeful that ``we can bargain something for the Afrikaner and achieve peace.''
The African National Congress (ANC) used the accord to signal that it would call for the lifting of economic and financial sanctions against South Africa by the end of the month - once the draft legislation passed by multiracial negotiators becomes law.
But the influential Johannesburg financial daily, Business Day, warned that it would take more than a multiracial commission - or even a popularly elected government - to end political violence and draw substantial investment funds. ``Too many uncertainties remain for foreigners or South Africans to commit investment funds to the country,'' the newspaper said.
President Clinton told President Frederik de Klerk and ANC President Nelson Mandela Wednesday that ``the United States will remain a partner in the process of building democracy and promoting economic development in South Africa,'' a White House spokesman said. The US also welcomed the announcement by ANC National Chairman Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday that the ANC expected to call for the lifting of financial sanctions by the end of the month. But the spokesman added that the US would wait for the ANC's announcement before making any move on lifting sanctions or calling on some 160 state and local governments in the US that have legislated sanctions against South Africa.
Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans said on Thursday that the Commonwealth - a grouping of 50 former British colonies - was likely to lift sanctions within the next two weeks. Sweden, the ANC's main financial backer during the apartheid years, indicated it would lift economic sanctions ``within days.''
Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha said on Wednesday that a TEC that excludes the Conservatives, IFP, and government of the Bophuthatswana homeland would face a serious dilemma. ``We would like to take all parties with significant support with us,'' he said. ``We and our friends in the African National Congress hope for this. Without these parties, the TEC faces a great dilemma.''