Never mind the occasional walkouts, breakdowns and shouting matches. What matters most in South Africa is that something called Codesa (or CODESA; the authorities on such matters have yet to vote) is taking place. It has a momentum of its own. It creates expectations both among advocates and opponents. The expectation is that by Christmas 1992, South Africa will have a constitution calling for legal equality of individuals, the basic freedoms, multi-party democracy in a single country with full black participation.
The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) is under way. Seventeen of 19 invited political organizations are taking part. It began with a much-photographed handshake between President F. W. de Klerk and the African National Congress (ANC) leader, Nelson Mandela. It has no rules for how big a vote is needed, proceeding on consensus. Before adjourning, the convention appointed five working groups to report back to a full session in February or March. They will deal with creating a climate for participation, drafting a new constitution, transitional arrangements, deciding the fate of four "homelands" and a timetable for change.
Tall order? Immense. Impossible? Certainly. But there is an alternative that is even less likely: None of the above. That is unimaginable. Seventeen of 19 groups are now committed to negotiating change. The holdouts are a white conservative party that favors restoring full apartheid and a black revolutionary party that wants to shut whites out. But the other 17, across a variegated set of political and ethnic spectrums, are engaged. The expectation now, even among those conservative whites who dread it, is overwhelming.