Rightist whites demand vote on South African constitution Leaders imply further violence

November 20, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Calling for a referendum that will clearly never happen, the right-white-wing leadership threatened to protest South Africa's new constitution in a way that echoed the calls once made by the African National Congress against the apartheid regime.

A phalanx of leaders termed South Africa a "mistake of history" that never should have existed and claimed that the Afrikaner people were more united than they have been since 1948, when they won control of the government.

They told a news conference that the country's whites should be allowed to vote on the constitution that was approved by negotiators Wednesday.

Though this same group protested the entire negotiation process, and lost by a wide margin in a 1992 referendum, these leaders now contend that the constitution does not live up to promises made by President F. W. de Klerk before that vote because it does not mandate power-sharing and sufficient local control.

"Mr. de Klerk is now morally and constitutionally obliged to call for a general election in order to prevent any further escalation of violence," said Ferdie Hartzenberg, leader of the Conservative Party. "If he does not comply, he will have to bear the full consequences of the dangerous realities created by him.

"We are a free nation, we are not a defeated nation, and the Afrikaner nation will not submit to Communist rule in South Africa. Therefore we are going to do everything in our power to maintain our freedom."

Mr. Hartzenberg said the right wing would carry out this promise by rejecting the authority both of the new constitution and of theTransition Executive Council, which will have significant authority over the country until April 27 elections.

"We will put into place our own alternative structures," he said, a plan that seemed reminiscent of that carried out by the ANC after its calls to make the country "ungovernable" in the 1980s.

Instead of submitting to the authority of structures set up by the white rulers in the black townships, the ANC formed organizations that did everything from negotiating with utility companies to dispensing justice and meting out punishment.

The Conservative Party and its allies probably have the strength to do something similar in rural communities, where a program of large-scale resistance to the end of apartheid could resemble similar stumbling blocks that school desegregation and other civil rights measures faced in the American South during the 1950s and 1960s.

But even as Mr. Hartzenberg and other members of the right-wing leadership addressed the news conference, Constand Viljoen, one of their top leaders, was negotiating with the ANC, trying to reconcile the right-wing demand for an Afrikaner homeland with the ANC's insistence on a unified country encompassing all of South Africa's many peoples.

The most likely outline of a settlement has the ANC allowing the right wing virtual freedom to draw the boundaries of one of the country's nine new regions in such a way that white Afrikaners would have, if not a majority, at least such a substantial percentage of the population that they would not feel threatened.

But many Afrikaners -- descendants of the Dutch who were the first white settlers -- cling to a vision of South Africa very different from that of most people, one in which the Afrikaners still control their own independent state, much as they have controlled the ** entire country for 45 years.

Mr. Viljoen has said that such a state should have only a loose economic alliance with the rest of South Africa and a 25-year period in which to decide if it wants closer ties.

"According to international law, we have a right and just claim to land in South Africa," Eugene Terre Blanche, leader of the paramilitary Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging, told the news conference. "We did not steal this country from other people. When my ancestors first came, it was vast and open and uncivilized. We did not steal highways and hospitals and universities. We built them. Now the ANC and Mr. de Klerk, they want to steal them from us."

Robert Van Tonder, one of the top theoreticians in the right wing, said that their movement, far from being left behind by history, was actually on its cutting edge.

"Instead of rectifying the mistakes of history, Mr. de Klerk and Mandela are compounding them," he said. "The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, for instance, have all dissolved, and their place, their people are instituting independent ethnic states.

"By doing so, they rectified the mistakes of history, because all these states, together with South Africa, were states that never should have existed at all. South Africa will now become the only surviving super-concocted state in the world, combining 15 nations in one state. It is an absurd creation. The new state should be termed absurdistate."

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