Pan Africanist Congress becomes latest group to boycott South African talks

December 17, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A leftist black group became the latest organization yesterday to opt out of negotiations on a new South Africa free of apartheid.

The Pan Africanist Congress, which once hoped to form a formidable team with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, said it would not attend this week's negotiating session because the results were rigged by the government and the ANC.

The decision, reached by 2,000 PAC delegates at a conference in Cape Town yesterday, is not likely to slow the process since the PAC does not have a significant following.

The ANC and the government are the main players, and both have expressed a commitment to proceed with the first round of talks Friday.

More than 20 black and white political groups plan to attend the negotiations, which aim to create a new government and draft a new constitution. The meeting has been heralded by government and ANC leaders because it marks the official start of real negotiations on South Africa's future.

Mr. Mandela told a rally in Soweto yesterday that the conference will succeed "because all the people of South Africa stand behind us."

But the withdrawal of the PAC demonstrated the problems black liberation groups are experiencing in their attempts to stand together in a strong, united front.

PAC officials had walked out of a planning session last month after government and ANC representatives voted against a list of PAC proposals. The officials said then that it was clear the ANC had cut a deal with the government of President F. W. de Klerk and was turning its back on other anti-apartheid groups.

When it withdrew yesterday, the PAC joined the Azanian People's Organization, which also is boycotting the conference. AZAPO leaders said they would not negotiate with a white government for land and rights that were stolen from blacks.

The meeting also is being boycotted by right-wing whites, who say they will not negotiate with blacks and "communists" who want to seize land that rightfully belongs to whites.

The leader of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party also threatened to walk out or cause trouble. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi demanded increased representation for Zulus, who make up the largest segment of the black population. He insisted that the king of the Zulu tribe be allowed a seat at Friday's meeting, and he warned that civil war might erupt if any major group is left out of the negotiations.

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