In South Africa, Divisions Deepen Buthelezi's Challenge to Election Plan and Spreading Violence Are Undermining Transition to Democracy

Article excerpt

DOUBTS are surfacing here that South Africa will be able to meet its April 1994 target date for democratic elections. Vigorous and sustained opposition from conservative factions in the negotiation process and escalating political violence have led some observers even to question whether the country will be able to remain unified throughout the transition process.

"I have never been more worried about the negotiating process in South Africa than I am at present," says a Western diplomat close to the talks. "It is beginning to look as though the rhetoric of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi could signal a long-term decision to resist the April 27 target date come what may."

The July 25 terrorist attack against white worshipers in a church in Cape Town, killing 12 people, is likely to further weaken the ruling National Party (NP), which, according to opinion polls conducted by three polling companies here, has been losing support to Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The polls now indicate that the NP has minority support among whites.

Political scientists say this shift could jeopardize the structure of the multiparty talks and strengthen right-wing demands for a whites-only election or a referendum on the proposed transition to democracy.

Since the April election date was set on July 2 despite opposition by the Concerned South Africans Group (COSAG) - a loose alliance of right-wing white parties and conservative blacks led by Buthelezi's IFP - the Zulu chief has warned of civil war and a Bosnia-type situation, if what he calls the will of the African National Congress (ANC) and the government are imposed on COSAG. Buthelezi addresses whites

After a deadlock in the negotiating forum last week, Buthelezi said he would not return to the talks until the rules had been changed so that decisions could not be made without the IFP's acquiescence.

Negotiators had been aiming for mid-August to finalize the interim constitution, Bill of Rights, an independent peacekeeping force to maintain order before the election, and the powers and functions of the proposed Transitional Executive Council. The mid-August deadline would allow enabling legislation to be passed at a special Parliament session Sept. 13.

But the multiracial transitional body to run the country during the election process - which was to be installed this month - is now expected to be up and running by the end of September at the earliest.

In his bid to change the course of negotiations, Buthelezi has addressed well-attended, mainly white meetings around the country, citing his opposition to the two-phase approach to negotiations that relies on an elected constituent assembly to finalize the constitution.

He wants strong regional government in the new South Africa, and is insistent that regional powers, boundaries, and functions should be written into an interim constitution before national elections.

He told a largely white audience in the Orange Free State capital of Bloemfontein last Friday that the government had sold out its own constituency by agreeing to an elected constitution-making body. …

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