Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's ANC Moves toward Party Status Draft Economic Policy Signals Key Campaign Positions in Run-Up to First Multiracial Vote

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's ANC Moves toward Party Status Draft Economic Policy Signals Key Campaign Positions in Run-Up to First Multiracial Vote

Article excerpt

THE African National Congress (ANC), Africa's oldest liberation movement, takes a key step toward becoming a political party when it meets here May 28 to draw up a detailed policy blueprint.

The four-day conference is the culmination of exhaustive consultations with the ANC membership to produce an official policy that will form the basis of the ANC's election campaign in the country's first democratic election.

The 700 delegates will debate policy on key issues such as the economy, land and trade-union rights, and welfare services.

"The conference represents a landmark in the ANC's evolution from a liberation movement to a fully-fledged political party," says a Western diplomat.

A 45-page draft policy document urges a "flexible" rather than a "rigid ideological response" to economic issues and sets economic growth, foreign investment, and a "dynamic private sector" as key goals.

The gradual transformation of the ANC, founded 80 years ago as a lobby group for black South Africans, has gained momentum since its leaders opted for political negotiations in 1990 and suspended its 29-year "armed struggle" to end white rule.

As a liberation movement the ANC has embraced a broad spectrum of ideological views ranging from socialism to capitalism. But while it has reached broad consensus on the form of a new constitution, the ANC has struggled to find an economic policy that both addresses the backlogs of apartheid and establishes a free-market economy.

The adoption of a detailed economic policy is likely to widen the gap between the ANC and its main ally - the South African Communist Party. It could, however, set the stage for negotiations between organized labor, business leaders, and government on the restructuring of the economy.

Meanwhile, the ANC's transformation to a political party is being hampered by the setback in negotiations for an interim government that stalled earlier this month when the parties failed to reach agreement on a timetable for elections and the form of an elected constitution-making body.

Relations between the ANC and the ruling National Party have continued to deteriorate in the wake of the impasse. Further, current levels of township violence have cast a shadow over the prospect of an early election. Election prospects

While the ANC is planning on elections in December or January, economists and Western diplomats are less optimistic. Many doubt an election will be held before the middle of next year; some say early 1994 is a more likely timetable.

In a confidential letter to its clients, a leading Johannesburg brokerage firm this week cautioned investors against banking on an early political settlement to sustain an expected upturn in the economy in the second half of next year or early 1994.

"An election anytime soon appears out of the question," the letter said. "The government is resisting pressure to give up power and is unlikely to take adequate steps to attend to the deep-seated cause of violence. …

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