Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Growing Violence, Stalled Talks Dim Prospects for South Africa Loss of Control over Extremist Elements among Both Whites and Blacks Heightens Concern for Democracy's Future Here

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Growing Violence, Stalled Talks Dim Prospects for South Africa Loss of Control over Extremist Elements among Both Whites and Blacks Heightens Concern for Democracy's Future Here

Article excerpt

HAS South Africa's transition to democracy run out of steam?

Since President Frederik de Klerk legalized opposition parties more than two years ago, political liberalization has been accompanied by escalating violence and continued deprivation for black South Africans. The quest for democracy at the national level has been accompanied by an alarming deterioration of prospects for democracy in the black townships.

Hopes for setting up an interim government before the end of the year - and democratic elections next year - are fast receding.

African National Congress President Nelson Mandela announced yesterday he was withdrawing from negotiations with the government over a transition to a multiracial democracy in protest of a township massacre that left at least 39 people dead Wednesday.

"The negotiation process is completely in tatters," Mr. Mandela told a crowd of 25,000 supporters in Evaton after visiting the scene of the massacre in nearby Boipatong township. "We are now convinved that {De Klerk's} method of bringing about a solution in this country is war."

"Looking back on De Klerk's turn-around in February 1990, there is no doubt that he averted an apocalypse in South Africa," says a Western diplomat. "But what has happened since has illustrated vividly that it is one thing to dismantle apartheid, but quite another to create a democracy in South Africa."

There is powerful evidence that both government and the ANC have lost control of violent elements in their ranks who are bent on sabotaging a negotiated settlement.

According to eye-witness accounts, the indiscriminate massacre Boipatong south of Johannesburg on Wednesday night involved collaboration between uniformed police officers and members of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party. President De Klerk faces unprecedented public pressure to identify the policemen involved and ensure that they are prosecuted. It was clear from the reception he received when he visited the scene of the massacre Saturday that black youths hold him responsible.

"De Klerk's credibility on the violence issue is at an all-time low," says a Western diplomat. "He will not get away this time with his government's bland denials of police collusion." Splits in the ANC

The ANC is experiencing serious divisions in its own ranks in the politically explosive townships south of Johannesburg, including Sharpeville, Sebokeng, and Boipatong.

The atmosphere is every bit as tense as it was in August 1984, when nationwide civil unrest broke out after a rent boycott in Sebokeng. The violence reached proportions of a national uprising and was met with a harsh national emergency in June 1986 that led to tens of thousands of arrests and thousands of deaths.

Could it happen again?

Signs abound that the country crisis is deepening. …

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