S. African Right Bitterly Divided
JOHANNESBURG — WITH only five weeks to go until South Africa's first all-race elections, the white right-wing is in a state of unprecedented turmoil.
Fearful of black majority rule, ardent Afrikaners are deeply divided over whether to take part in the voting and how to reach their goal of a separate homeland.
On one point all right-wing Afrikaners are united: They oppose a government they expect to be dominated by the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party and aided and abetted by the ruling National Party (NP).
But the stage is now set for a bitter struggle between those right-wing Afrikaners who want to seize their Volkstaat through civil disobedience and resistance and those who want to achieve it through participation in the elections.
``What we have achieved is a [interim] constitution made for communists by communists,'' hard-line Conservative Party leader Ferdi Hartzenberg told a March 21 election meeting in Cape Town.
The collapse of apartheid and the painstaking four-year transition to democracy have taken a heavy toll on Afrikaners who believed domination and privilege were their permanent heritage.
Whatever unity existed in the white right collapsed in the aftermath of its failed effort to bolster Bophuthatswana leader Lucas Mangope during a March 11-12 popular uprising in the farcical black homeland. Mr. Mangope was deposed and the conservative camp split.
``The history of Afrikanerdom is one of continual splits and schisms,'' says Transvaal Chamber of Industries policy analyst Wim Booyse. ``So it is not surprising that Afrikaners should be divided at this crucial time in their history.''
President Frederik de Klerk, who initiated reforms in 1990 under threat of international isolation and black rebellion, has carried about half of the country's 2.8 million Afrikaners with him.
But those who oppose him are fragmented into a plethora of groups that cannot reach consensus on the shape of an Afrikaner homeland or the means of achieving it. The ANC and NP have ruled out a separate Volkstaat, but have agreed to discuss Afrikaner self-determination.
A test of strength comes March 29-31, when right-wing Afrikaners plan to take control of 78 towns they dominate in the northern and central parts of the country they have targeted for their homeland.
Beneath the white right's anger, racial hatred, and bluster is a deep fear and insecurity about the future.
Afrikaners account for nearly 60 percent of the country's white population of some 5 million, which in turn represents about 15 percent of all voters. Right-wing whites account for about 3 to 5 percent of the voting population. Of the 3 million white voters who took part in the 1992 referendum on racial reforms, 30 percent voted against the changes.
In the wake of the death of CP leader Andries Treuernicht in April 1993, the white right formed the Afrikaner Volksfront in an attempt at Afrikaner unity.
The Freedom Alliance, a coalition of white right and conservative black leaders, including the AVF and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, was formed six months later to strengthen the leverage of separatist parties at the negotiating table.
Since the adoption of the interim constitution in November, the alliance has extracted important concessions from the ANC and government on self-determination for ethnic minorities.
But after the fall of Bophuthatswana, AVF leader Gen. Constand Viljoen broke ranks in a dispute with hard-line elements, and last week formed the Freedom Front.
This new party, which will contest the ballot to demonstrate numerical and geographical support for the homeland concept, is locked in a struggle for support with the CP and the ultra-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), General Viljoen's former AVF partners who advocate a boycott of the poll.
If the Freedom Front achieves 5 percent in the April ballot, it will qualify to take part in the Transitional Government of National Unity that will be set up after the election. ``This would ensure a voice for the right-wing in the finalizing of the new constitution,'' a Western diplomat says.
Viljoen hopes right-wingers will vote for him to show opposition to the ANC rather than heed the boycott call. He also hopes to win the support of disaffected NP voters who see the demise of white power.
``There is a strong feeling among the right-wing rank-and-file that they must vote - not to oppose the CP leadership, but to minimize an ANC victory,'' Mr. Booyse says. ``De Klerk claims that only the NP can [minimize an ANC victory] ... but even moderate right-wingers see the NP already in bed with the ANC.''
The South African Defense Force could face a dilemma over how to deal with right-wing Afrikaners, many of whom belong to the SADF commando structures, a network of volunteers and former national servicemen.
The hotspot is the homeland of KwaZulu, the stronghold of Inkatha leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. ``We cannot take on the SADF on a military basis in KwaZulu,'' says a key Viljoen aide. ``But, morally, the government and its allies have a problem.''
Freedom Front spokesman Stephan Maninger says the right-wing would assist Chief Buthelezi in KwaZulu if he was faced with an attempt to oust him.
But intense hostility between the Freedom Front and the AWB could prevent a united stand. After Bophuthatswana, AWB leader Eugene Terre Blanche accused Viljoen of playing into the hands of the communists and for being on ``Mandela's payroll.''
The Freedom Front seeks an Afrikaner homeland, but does not hold the position that this objective is possible before the election, Mr. Maninger says. ``The objectives of the Afrikaner Volksfront and the Freedom Front are the same,'' he says. ``It is over the means of achieving that objective that we differ.''