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S. African Election Poses Dilemma : Liberals Torn Over Whether to Vote or Abstain Next Week

May 02, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

Although more radical groups wanted the United Democratic Front to call for a boycott, Morobe said, the group eventually decided upon what was dubbed a "vote if you must" approach aimed at maximizing abstentions in most areas but supporting Progressive candidates in districts where they otherwise might lose to Nationalists.

Describing the white-led minority government as "illegitimate" and the election as "a time-wasting blockade of the real issues that South Africa should be facing," the United Democratic Front left it to whites to decide how best they could "contribute to ending racism and minority domination."

But Morobe, reminding whites that it is in their name that "South Africa today is being run by the military and the police," warned "those who still see some virtue in this racist Parliament (that their) continued support is bound to lead to tragic consequences."

Thabo Mbeki, information director of the African National Congress, said that his organization, which has condemned participation in the election as "helping perpetuate apartheid," will study the election results closely in planning the resumption of its dialogue with whites, particularly with the Dutch-descended Afrikaners, a number of whom have broken with the National Party over the slow pace of political reform.

"We want to see how deep the layer of Afrikaner dissidents is, how broad the fissures in the white power structure are and how wide the swings are to the left and to the right," Mbeki said in an interview in Lusaka, Zambia, where the ANC has its headquarters. "We intend to expand discussions with our white compatriots, especially the Afrikaners, and the election results may give us an idea of how open they will be to us."

A dozen anti-apartheid white groups, brought together by the United Democratic Front's "appeal to whites" and the debate among white leftists over whether to participate in the election, recently formed a new political organization aimed at mobilizing the white community before and after the elections.

Called the Five Freedoms Forum, the new organization intends to base its campaign on appeals for "freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from discrimination, freedom of speech and association and freedom of conscience."

Similar groups in Cape Town, Durban and the university town of Stellenbosch also decided not to press whites to boycott the election--emergency regulations prohibit boycotts--and instead are urging them to align themselves with the country's black majority for long-term political change.

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