De Klerk takes tough line in new demands on ANC

October 13, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- South Africa's prospects for democracy took a turn for the worse yesterday as President F. W. de Klerk issued a set of new demands on the African National Congress.

Mr. de Klerk, speaking to a special session of Parliament, crushed any hopes for speedy movement toward an interim government to replace his white-minority regime.

The president detailed a list of constitutional principles that he said the ANC must accept before he would release the reins of power. They included a condition that the presidency be shared by more than one party and that protections be included for "regional interests" and other "specific interests." He did not elaborate but apparently was referring to the country's jittery white minority.

"We must ensure that the new South Africa will not exchange one form of domination for another," he said, repeating his often-stated position that it would be harmful to the country if any single party held too much power as his National Party does now.

Mr. de Klerk's comments were clearly aimed at the ANC, which is considered the most popular organization in the country.

He also said the ANC should discontinue underground activities and "unacceptable mass action," charging that the ANC's recent demonstrations led to violence. He seemed to blame the ANC for the deaths of 28 of its own supporters, who were shot down by government troops in the black homeland of Ciskei last month.

Mr. de Klerk's tough new line is the latest stumbling block in the path of negotiations toward a democratic government to replace apartheid, the country's 40-year-old system of white domination.

Some observers said he was taking the tough new position to placate members of his party, who were grumbling that Mr. de Klerk had conceded too much to the ANC. Last month, in a meeting with ANC President Nelson Mandela, Mr. de Klerk agreed to ANC demands for the release of political prisoners, the banning of certain weapons and security measures at migrant workers' hostels thought to be havens for ANC opponents.

The president, therefore, used his opening speech to Parliament to show he hadn't gone soft on the ANC and had no intention of giving it a "blank check" to draft a new constitution in which whites would be unprotected.

Ironically, the 10-day session was originally planned to pass legislation that would pave the way to an interim government and a non-racist constitution. The session was scheduled by Mr. de Klerk five months ago during a period of optimism when most parties thought South Africa could have a multiracial government before the year's end.

But the legislation was not ready to present to Parliament because pro-democracy talks broke down in May. The talks were supposed to produce agreements that would have been the basis for an interim government, which would draft a new constitution.

Instead, the Parliament is meeting with little real purpose, amid complaints from government critics on the left and the right.

Walter Sisulu, deputy president of the ANC, said the white-minority government was trying to continue "unilateral law-making" instead of negotiating with "the legitimate representatives of the people."

Speaking to protesters outside the stately Parliament buildings, Mr. Sisulu told thousands of ANC supporters that Parliament should be limited to passing laws that "ensure a speedy transition to democracy."

"And then it must phase itself out to make way for an interim government of national unity," he said.

The ANC originally planned to try to block the special session from taking place, but instead about 4,000 demonstrators staged an orderly march around the buildings, held a rally and dispersed peacefully.

Some protesters climbed a statue of former South African President Jan Smuts and spat in its eyes, as Mr. Sisulu symbolically renamed Parliament Square after a former ANC president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Luthuli.

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