S. Africa, ANC to negotiate on constitution next week

November 28, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The government and th African National Congress said yesterday they will resume constitutional negotiations next week as the first step toward getting full-scale talks going again among all of South Africa's political groups.

The talks between delegations headed by ANC President Nelson Mandela and President F. W. de Klerk are scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, with a second round in the first week of January.

The delegations plan to talk about most of the major unresolved issues, including ending violence and drafting a democratic constitution to replace apartheid.

The ANC and the government are still far apart on a number of issues, but both sides are beginning to sound more conciliatory than they have since the reform process started almost three years ago.

Announcement of the meeting came at the end of a week of positive developments for South Africa's beleaguered political reform process.

On Wednesday, the ANC said it was willing to share power in the post-apartheid government. On Thursday, Mr. de Klerk announced a timetable for elections to end white rule, saying they should be held no later than April 1994.

The ANC wants the elections sooner, but its leaders say it is a victory that Mr. de Klerk has set a date at all.

"The process is beginning to move forward, and the delays that have taken place are beginning to be overcome," said Mac Maharaj, a member of the ANC's executive committee.

The bilateral talks were expected after Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk held a one-day summit in September and reached an agreement on several ANC demands, such as for the release of '' remaining political prisoners.

The meeting had seemed to set the negotiations back on track until Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi balked at having the ANC and the government cut private deals that affected other parties, such as his Inkatha Freedom Party.

Even now, it is not clear that multiparty talks will be resumed because Mr. Buthelezi is still griping about the way he and his followers have been neglected.

The answer probably depends on the outcome of his proposed peace summit with Mr. Mandela, which may or may not take place.

The two sides agreed in principle this week to the meeting, but the ANC placed a lot of conditions on it, and Mr. Buthelezi isn't likely to go along with them.

Among other things, the ANC wants the Zulu leader to agree to a ban on carrying weapons in public.

One of Mr. Buthelezi's main tactics in demonstrating his power and importance is to organize Zulu marches at which tens of thousands of his supporters walk through the streets carrying spears, sticks and shields.

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