JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- In an effort to breathe new life into a sluggish negotiating process and move South Africa closer to majority rule, the African National Congress proposed yesterday that all political parties in the country meet to begin work toward a new constitution.
"The summoning of such a congress would constitute the first step in the process leading to the adoption of the new constitution," the ANC said in a statement issued on the anti-apartheid organization's 79th anniversary.
ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela said the conference should include all parties with a proven constituency, including the white-minority government, right-wing whites and the ANC's black rival groups.
Mr. Mandela said the ruling National Party, headed by reformist President F. W. de Klerk, had given no indication that it would oppose such a gathering. But the right-wing Conservative Party immediately rejected the idea as a plan for "black domination," and the ANC's chief black political rival, the Zulu-based Inkatha party, questioned the group's motives in proposing it.
"We reject the proposal of the ANC for a multiparty congress because it makes no provision for the freedom of the white nation," said Ferdi Hartzenberg, a leader of the Conservative Party, which wants to retain racial segregation.
Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said his organization already had expressed support for a multiparty conference, but he said the ANC's terms for the meeting suggested that the proposal was "just one more step along the road to the winner-take-all power that the ANC . . . is aiming for."
Mr. de Klerk did not respond immediately to the ANC offer, but there has been speculation that he was planning to propose all-party talks when he addresses the opening of Parliament next month.
So far, the government has been negotiating primarily with the ANC, the most influential black political group in the country, in an attempt to clear away obstacles to full-fledged multiparty talks.