RIGHT-WING Afrikaners have taken the first formal steps toward creating their own transitional authority to counter the setting up of a multiracial Transitional Executive Council (TEC) in South Africa.
The right-wing Afrikaner Volksfront announced on Nov. 29 that it would act as a transitional government ``to protect the interests of the Afrikaner nation'' until a whites-only election could be held in a proposed Afrikaner homeland.
The statement, signed by Volksfront leader Gen. Constand Viljoen and Conservative Party (CP) leader Ferdi Hartzenberg, said that an Afrikaner homeland would be demarcated and founded by March 1994 - a month before the country's April ballot.
The right-wing move was triggered by an announcement on Nov. 26 that President Frederik de Klerk had signed a proclamation enabling the setting up of the TEC, which plans to hold its first meeting in Cape Town Dec. 7.
African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela, speaking before a meeting with visiting US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown Nov. 30, called for the formation of an antifascist front if the Freedom Alliance (FA) - a coalition of right-wing white and conservative black leaders, which includes the Volksfront - insists on the continuation of minority rule.
Later, Mr. Mandela said: ``I have come out of the meeting [with Mr. Brown] confident that we have powerful friends. We will continue persuading those who fear democracy not to undermine the process of bringing peace to this country.''
President De Klerk, who held talks with Brown later that day, described the right-wing declaration of independence ``tragic, irresponsible, and untimely.'' But he crossed swords with Mandela's proposal for an antifascist front, rejecting the characterization of conservative black leaders like KwaZulu's Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi as ``fascists.''
``We don't need political fronts,'' De Klerk said. ``There will, from the government's side, be firm action against any breaking of the law.''
The move by the Volksfront has been interpreted in political and diplomatic circles as a logical step for the right wing, which has been threatening to set up alternative structures unless its demands for self-determination are met.
``It doesn't change anything for the present, but it sets up the framework for a future confrontation,'' says a Western diplomat close to the talks between the government and right wing.
In making the announcement, General Viljoen warned Volksfront (AVF) supporters not to take the law into their own hands. Speaking on Radio Pretoria, a right-wing mouthpiece, Viljoen said he was concerned that activists on the far right were planning acts of violence.
``The AVF announcement is a clear indication that the leadership is trying to steer its followers in the direction of civil disobedience and symbolic protest rather than civil war,'' the diplomat says. ``But the AVF leadership is trapped by the demands they have been making and the expectations they have created, and that remains a very dangerous situation.''
The Volksfront is still involved in detailed discussions with the ruling NP government and ANC over their demand for an Afrikaner homeland, or Volkstaat, in which they can run their own affairs. But the Volksfront - which is an umbrella body representing more than 20 right-wing groups - has not been able to agree on the boundaries of an Afrikaner homeland.
The boundaries ``would be declared by the people themselves,'' Viljoen said. The latest Volksfront proposals define an area based on voting districts won by the CP in the 1989 whites-only election, which constitutes about 18 percent of the country.
Some 50-odd towns are already in the hands of the right-wing CP, and even those controlled by the ruling National Party (NP) are reluctant to take part in power-sharing with blacks, which would lead to white taxpayers funding the upliftment of impoverished black townships.
In terms of a compromise on local government hammered out in the past week by multiparty negotiators, white councils in conservative towns will be able to retain their racial identity during the transition as long as they take part in multiracial forums.
A Volksfront official said that further right-wing strategy would be clarified at a mass rally of right-wing Afrikaners to be held at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on Dec. 16 - the emotive anniversary of the Boer (Afrikaner) victory over Zulus at Blood River in Natal in 1837.
The country's first nonracial constitution, which was approved in draft form by multiparty negotiators Nov. 18 after more than three years of talks, is expected to be approved by the white-dominated parliament in Cape Town in mid-December.