ANC brings formal end to talks De Klerk says action based on 'untruth'

June 24, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The march toward democracy in South Africa came to a dead halt yesterday as the African National Congress and its allies formally pulled out of negotiations with the government.

Leaders of the ANC said they had no option but to break off all negotiations because "the National Party regime of President F. W. de Klerk has brought our country to the brink of disaster."

The decision affirms a move Sunday by ANC President Nelson Mandela to break off meetings between the white-minority government and the dominant black political organization. Mr. Mandela called an urgent meeting of the ANC's 50-member governing council following the grisly massacre of 40 people in the black township of Boipatong a week ago.

Mr. de Klerk, cutting short a visit to Spain to deal with the political crisis at home, told reporters in Madrid that the ANC's decision "is based on a fundamental untruth, namely that the government is involved in the killing of people."

He said the climate in South Africa was so volatile that it "can easily erupt into violence," and he maintained that the ANC's new campaign of mass protests against the government contributed to the tensions.

Both the government and the ANC say they remain committed to negotiations as the route for settling South Africa's political problems and creating a democracy to replace apartheid. But the ANC said it was pulling out because the government had made a mockery of negotiations.

"What is at issue is more than a crisis of the negotiations process,"said ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa. "The fundamental reason for the deadlock is whether there is to be democratic change or white-minority veto powers."

The process was already in trouble, but the Boipatong massacre pushed it to the point of collapse by magnifying the dispute between the government and the ANC.

Residents of Boipatong, a small community about 40 miles south of Johannesburg, said the late-night assault on their homes was conducted by state police and militants of the Inkatha Freedom Party, an ANC rival.

Inkatha is a Zulu-based political group led by Mangosutho Buthelezi. In the industrial Vaal region, where Boipatong is located, many of Inkatha's members are rural migrant workers who live in large all-male hostels, many of which are at odds with nearby ANC-controlled communities.

Police announced the arrests of five men yesterday at the all-ZuluKwaMadala hostel outside Boipatong. The hostel is being guarded by police who have been conducting an investigation JTC there since the day after the massacre, in which a band of armed men murdered and mutilated township residents in their homes.

The Iscor steelmaking company, owner of the controversial hostel, announced plans to close the facility as soon as it could arrange other accommodations for its 400 employees housed there.

Iscor spokesman Neels Howatt said that the company had been trying to find a solution to the hostel problem for two years and that the root of the problem is "ethnic conflict" between Zulu workers and other groups.

Hundreds of Zulu workers moved into KwaMadala, which had been an abandoned facility, in 1990 when they fled another multiethnic hostel. Since then, there have been repeated charges that attacks on nearby residents have been launched from KwaMadala.

The ANC charges that the government is using Inkatha's Zulus to wreak havoc in black communities.

The ANC claims the aim is to weaken the organization at the negotiating table, where the government and 18 other parties are trying to design a new democratic government to replace apartheid. The ANC and the government are the major players.

Those charges are laid out in the July issue of Mayibuye, the ANC magazine, which says the violence is part of a government plot called Operation Thunderbolt.

More than 12,000 people have been killed in black township violence since 1984, 8,000 of them since the ban on the ANC was lifted by Mr. de Klerk on Feb. 2, 1990. The government says it is merely factional fighting between different black groups, while the ANC sees it as government-inspired violence.

The ANC listed conditions it says the government must meet before it will consider returning to the negotiating table. They include termination of all government covert operations and hit squads; phasing out of all-male migrant worker hostels; and banning the carrying of all dangerous weapons in public.

The ANC also demanded an international commission of inquiry into the Boipatong massacre and the repeal of all repressive legislation, including laws passed this month in the closing days of Parliament giving security forces new powers to detain suspects without charge.

"The response and practical steps taken by the de Klerk regime to these demands will play a critical role in determining the direction and speed with which bona fide negotiations can take place," the ANC said.

Piet Coetze, a spokesman for Mr. de Klerk's National Party, responded that his party found it "tragic that the ANC has decided to burden the process of negotiations further with more demands and implied threats."

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