South Africa Changes Color

December 11, 1993

As Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk, the odd couple of historic destiny, received their well-deserved Nobel Peace Prizes Oslo yesterday, South Africa was not the country it had long been. During the week, it changed utterly.

On Tuesday in Cape Town, exclusively white minority rule ended. Mr. de Klerk promulgated the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) -- 32 members (only seven of them white) from 16 parties -- to oversee his government. Unfortunately, groups of black and white conservatives under the rubric of the Freedom Alliance stayed out after negotiations to include them had failed.

On Thursday, the last U.N. voluntary economic sanction against South Africa -- the much contravened oil embargo -- ended automatically, because the TEC was up and running. One important and mandatory sanction remains. The weapons embargo will not be lifted until the multiracial government to be elected on April 27, replacing the president and the TEC, is a going concern.

Also on Thursday, the TEC bit its first bullet. It ordered South Africa's police to seize authority from the homeland police of Mangosuthu Buthelezi in KwaZulu. They are accused of tolerating violence by Mr. Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party against African National Congress supporters of Mr. Mandela. The willingness of national police minister Hernus Kriel to accept this direction was being tested, as was the response of Mr. Buthelezi.

His Inkatha and the white Conservative Party and others in the Freedom Alliance were meeting in his dusty little capital of Ulundi, simultaneously with the formalities in Oslo, to formulate a response to events.

There is a place for them in the future of South Africa. But it is not obstructing that future. They and their followers would be run over by it.

They may have the power to sow discord and violence, some of which would occur without their assistance. They may help convert an embryonic democracy into something more authoritarian and less attractive than is intended. But they cannot stop the election from being held, or the ANC in all likelihood from coming to power, or the unitary character of the nation that is being reborn. The new South Africa will have no "homelands," white, Zulu or other.

Both Mr. de Klerk and Mr. Mandela -- who still maintain the fiction that they are political opponents rather than the grand allies they so obviously are -- made clear their understanding that the Nobel Prize is not merely reward for what they have done, but encouragement for what they have yet to accomplish. Their opponents back in South Africa ought to have heard that message.

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