Colorful Rally in a White Town

A handful of white property owners campaigns for the ANC in a wary, affluent neighborhood

`AMANDLA!'' (Power!), shouted the white businessman in his neat two-piece suit and tie as he raised the familiar clenched-fist salute of the African National Congress.

``Awethu'' (To the people), chanted the subdued crowd of about 100 black domestic workers who attended the ANC's first election meeting, held on March 24, in one of South Africa's most affluent white neighborhoods.

``I think we can do better than that,'' shouted back Alex Anderson, chairman of the fledgling ANC branch as he leaned forward on the podium draped with the bright black, green, and gold ANC colors.

In Sandton, liberation slogans don't roll easily off the tongues of the handful of white landowners who have crossed the racial divide to sign up domestic workers as ANC members. Sandton is foreign territory to the ANC, the major black liberation movement widely expected to win an outright majority in the country's first all-race election scheduled for April 26-28.

A municipality adjoining the impoverished and overcrowded black township of Alexandra, Sandton is home to about 100,000 white property owners whose plots range between one-half to seven or eight acres. They are mainly supporters of the small, liberal Democratic Party (DP).

Alexandra, a township about one-tenth the size of Sandton with three times as many people, provides many of the 30,000 or so domestic workers and dependents who maintain the neatly manicured gardens, sparkling swimming pools, and all-weather tennis courts that adorn the neighborhood.

The Sandton branch of the ANC, established by a handful of whites, boasts only about 1,000 members, of whom the overwhelming majority are black. Mr. Anderson joined the ANC in the belief that building a nonracial democracy is an essential prerequisite for a prosperous and peaceful future.

David Dalling, who represented Sandton in the national Parliament, was one of five DP legislators to join the ANC in 1992. Last year, three of the 20 Sandton town councilors joined the ANC but have met resistance to their proposal to broaden Sandton's tax base to include Alexandra township.

The vast gulf between the wealthy white landowners of Sandton (household incomes average about $50,000 a year) and domestic workers, who earn about $120 a month, is so wide that it seems almost impossible to pitch a universal message.

Evelyn Moloapo, a domestic worker and ANC volunteer, is caught between these two worlds: ``My employer complains all the time about my involvement with the ANC and is continually insisting that I must choose between my job and the ANC.''

Most of the questions from the black domestic workers reflected concern about low pay and poor working conditions. ``I think we must be brave enough to stand up and fight for our rights,'' said ANC official Jesse Duarte, responding to questioners. ``Our people are not asking for yachts, BMWs, and Mercedes-Benzes, but merely for homes that they can afford.... South Africa can afford to give all its people a decent life.''

The lone white voice in the audience, Lorraine Tulleken, said: ``There are a lot of people in this privileged community who have not exploited their domestic workers in the past, and I want to know whether they will be welcome in the ANC or will be penalized for their swimming pools and large properties.''

ANC official Paul Mashatile said: ``It is clear from the ANC's policies and programs that everyone will have the right to own property - that includes the property you have. People get confused with all the talk of redistribution. It is not about taking one's Mercedes-Benz and giving it to another.''

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