To some people, the South African government of F. W. de Klerk appears on the verge of cutting a deal with the black majority as represented by the African National Congress (ANC) led by Nelson Mandela. Many hope that it is true, and almost all find Mr. Mandela indispensable to the process because of his prestige in and out of South Africa. But two tragic and violent situations threaten to undercut Mr. Mandela or destroy any bonds of trust between him and the government.
One is the violence between Zulu supporters of the Inkatha organization and Xhosa supporters of ANC, which has taken nearly 800 lives since Aug. 12. Mr. Mandela and the ANC leadership denounce the security operation to quell the violence, "Operation Iron Fist," as brutal and partisan on the side of the Zulu-Inkatha side. They threaten to call off the talks.
Their allegation, if true, would be in keeping with past police behavior when government policy built up the Inkatha leader, Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and discredited Mr. Mandela and ANC at every opportunity. In the last years of the presidency of P. W. Botha, the security apparatus was basically removed from parliamentary oversight. Now when government policy under President de Klerk has turned around, it is not clear if police are still acting under old assumptions.