S. Africa leader sets '94 for vote to end white rule ANC calls plan 'unacceptable'

November 27, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- President F.W. de Klerk laid out a timetable yesterday for ending white rule in South Africa with multiracial elections in early 1994.

The president's announcement marked the first time the nation's white-minority government had ever set a date for the end of apartheid, and he said he was doing it to "answer allegations that we are clinging to power."

His timetable, however, was promptly rejected by the African National Congress, South Africa's most important black political organization, which has called for elections next year to establish a democratic government.

The ANC said Mr. de Klerk's schedule, in which elections would be held the first half of 1994 -- probably in March or April -- was "totally unacceptable. The ANC wants an election in 1993."

It also chastised Mr. de Klerk for issuing a timetable for elections, saying that should be the subject of negotiations between the political parties that are trying to chart the country's course from apartheid to majority rule.

Though they differ on precisely when South Africa would make the leap to democratic elections, the government and the ANC are working within a similar framework for the first time, which is a positive sign for a resumption of full-scale negotiations on constitutional reforms. Those talks broke down earlier this year.

ANC president Nelson Mandela demanded last week that Mr. de Klerk set a deadline for elections, saying there was no point in talking endlessly with no target dates in mind.

The ANC has accused the government of trying to drag out negotiations indefinitely in an attempt to retain power.

Mr. de Klerk's announcement came one day after the ANC adopted a conciliatory plan to share power with the president's National Party and with other major political parties.

The plan was designed to expedite the process of negotiating a new democratic government which would include blacks for the first time in this country's history.

ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday that his organization would do everything in its power to ensure the transition took place within nine to 12 months.

But Mr. de Klerk made it clear that he envisioned a slower process before he would turn over South Africa to new rulers.

He said the ANC's optimistic schedule was unrealistic because of all the steps that had to take place before the country would be ready to hold an election.

He issued a timetable that showed the buildup to the election ending in March or April of 1994.

He said multiparty negotiations first had to be resumed to draft an agreement on the broad outlines of a new government.

Roelf Meyer, the constitutional affairs minister, said the government hoped to open a new round of multi-party talks in February. The talks have been stalled since May because of major disagreements and confrontations between the government, the ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party.

Mr. de Klerk told reporters a transitional council had to be put in place after completion of the multi-party talks.

The council, he said, would need time to formulate the rules and regulations for democratic elections, which then would have to be organized.

He said he expected the council to be in place by next June and the rules and regulations for the election to be formulated by the end of October.

The president said it might be possible to expedite his timetable, but everything would depend on the ability of the various political parties to cooperate and reach agreements -- which they have had a great deal of difficulty doing this year.

The ANC and the government are the major players in South Africa's 3-year-old political reform process, which is aimed at ending white rule and installing a democratic government elected by all South Africans, the majority of whom are black.

The process has been stalled for six months, but it seemed to get a major boost Wednesday when the ANC offered to share power for the sake of peace and stability rather than seek to install an ANC government, which right-wing whites might try to topple or destabilize.

A meeting between Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela is to be held sometime in December.

A peace summit between Mr. Mandela and his chief black rival, Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, also is being arranged, but there remains some doubt about whether it will actually be held.

Mr. Mandela said yesterday during a visit to nearby Botswana that the Zulu leader would have to meet a number of demands before the summit meeting is held, including a demand to "disarm his men," who have been engaged in bloody warfare against ANC supporters across the country. Mr. Buthelezi has already rejected the ANC leader's demands.

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