De Klerk warns of war if negotiation fails but offers no plan for S. Africa

January 30, 1993|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- President F. W. de Klerk warned yesterday that South Africa faced the prospect of "devastating war" if the current negotiations between blacks and whites failed to produce a democratic solution.

Mr. de Klerk opened Parliament, expected to be the last segregated Parliament South Africa will have, with this dire warning and said the negotiations still had a long way to go. For the first time since coming to office, he had no bold initiatives or proposals to move the country away from apartheid and toward democratic rule.

The lack of initiatives suggested that the rest of the process depended not on his pronouncements but on agreements among the country's different political parties and organizations, most notably the African National Congress.

The ANC held a news conference to criticize Mr. de Klerk's speech, but for the first time since it was legalized by him in 1990, the anti-apartheid organization did not hold a protest march against the segregated Parliament.

"People felt our energy and resources could be better spent this year preparing for a general election than a march," said Pallo Jordan, a member of the ANC's national executive committee.

He said, however, that Mr. de Klerk's speech had been a disappointment.

"There are certain things the president could have said he wants to act on or he could have put on the agenda," said Mr. Jordan, who accused Mr. de Klerk of a "tendency toward procrastination" in setting the agenda for a transition to democracy.

Mr. de Klerk said he hoped that multiparty talks on the country's future could resume in March and that a multiracial interim government could be in place by June.

An interim government would oversee the country's first democratic elections, in which 30 million blacks and 5 million whites would vote on a one-person, one-vote basis.

Mr. de Klerk did not announce a date for elections, although the opening of Parliament was preceded by series of bilateral meetings with black opposition groups.

The meetings produced no major breakthroughs or agreements, which suggested that this year of crucial talks will be another rough one. Multiparty negotiations, which started two years ago in a burst of optimism, broke down last May amid bitter accusations by the major parties.

Only now, after months of bilateral talks between the key parties, do they appear to be getting back on track.

Mr. de Klerk has said that he expects to hold elections no later than early next year. The ANC wants an election by the end of this year.

The failure of this year's speech to propose additional reforms suggests that Mr. de Klerk thinks he has gone as far as he can go on his own and intends to leave the rest to the difficult negotiations process, which included 19 different political organizations and parties last year.

Mr. de Klerk's major initiative this year was a response to violent crime. He proposed legislation that would impose a prison sentence of at least five years for the possession of an AK-47 assault rifle.

In his first address to Parliament in 1990, he announced plans to legalize all "banned" political organizations and release prominent political prisoners, including ANC President Nelson Mandela.

Subsequent speeches at the opening of Parliament were used to announce proposals to repeal apartheid laws, such as those that segregated housing and public accommodations.

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