De Klerk says ANC is reverting to policies of 'confrontation'

December 19, 1990|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- President F. W. de Klerk, declaring he was trying to pave the way for a new South Africa, accused the African National Congress yesterday of reverting to "outdated rhetoric" and policies that "fan the flames of confrontation."

Responding to militant stands taken by the ANC at its national conference last weekend, Mr. de Klerk said he was disappointed with the group, with which he has been holding talks since May.

"They continued to advocate outmoded revolutionary doctrines and radical methods, knowing full well that these militate against a true commitment to peaceful solutions," he said.

"They refused to acknowledge that any fundamental changes had taken place in South Africa. This, despite the fact that for the first time in 30 years they and their leadership could hold a conference, legally and without hindrance, within the republic."

At its meeting, ANC delegates expressed hard-line positions against negotiations with the government and in favor of continued economic sanctions and armed confrontation -- the strategies pursued by the organization during the years it was banned from political activity.

Rank-and-file members appeared far more radical than their leaders, who have been holding preliminary talks with government officials. Nelson Mandela and other leaders worked throughout the three-day conference to prod delegates toward more moderate stands.

In the end, the delegates passed resolutions saying their patience with the government was running out and threatening to pull out of negotiations if the government does not take certain actions by April 30, including releasing all political prisoners and allowing all exiles to return to the country.

The government published a notice in its official gazette yesterday that seemed to respond to the demand for exiles to return. The notice said Mr. de Klerk was granting amnesty to everyone who had left South Africa illegally prior to Oct. 8. He did not extend the amnesty to those exiles charged with crimes against the government, as the ANC has maintained he should.

Mr. de Klerk, in his TV address to the nation, said South Africa had experienced both progress and trauma in 1990. "This has been a year filled with achievement and promise but also with disappointment."

He said South Africa was breaking out of its international isolation and said this was because the country had finally "normalized" its political process to the point that different ideas and ideologies could be openly discussed.

Last February, Mr. de Klerk revoked the ban on all anti-apartheid organizations, including the ANC and the Communist Party. The government also has released from prison hundreds of anti-apartheid leaders and activists who had been detained for their political activities.

The South African president said he would not veer from his commitment to building a democratic society, despite the difficulties posed by violence in black townships and other "destructive developments."

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