PRETORIA, South Africa — A congress of South Africa's ruling National Party endorsed a five-year plan of racial reform Thursday that zealously guards white-minority interests but also is intended to serve as the framework for power-sharing negotiations with the black majority.
The program was under attack even before the end of the daylong congress. A spokeswoman for the outlawed African National Congress said a power-sharing proposal giving whites power of veto "doesn't meet our demands," while the right-wing Conservative Party called it a "sellout of whites in South Africa."
"To the white electorate I want to give you this assurance," National Party leader and presidential heir apparent Frederik W. de Klerk told 1,700 delegates. "The National Party will never leave you in the lurch."
With a standing ovation, the delegates approved the seven-point "Plan of Action" that will guide the party through parliamentary elections in September against the Conservative Party and the liberally inclined Democratic Party.
While stressing that the agenda is wide open for talks with the country's 28 million blacks, the program is firmly rooted in a commitment to "group rights"--a consistent policy under 41 years of apartheid rule by the party.
The concept is that blacks, whites, Indians and South Africans of mixed race, or Coloreds, have the right to govern their own affairs, including segregated residential areas and educational facilities.
At the same time, the plan calls for the abolition of all racial discrimination. It envisions creation of a new constitution that brings blacks into a legislature for the first time and a Security Council-type body as the supreme arbiter of disputes in which each group has veto power.
"We do not want to follow the typical Westminster type of voting by just counting heads and throwing all the votes into one hat," De Klerk told a news conference.
"We need consensus, and concurrent majorities is the foundation of consensus."
The congress also swiftly put the presidency of Pieter W. Botha into the archives though he remains in office until September, unanimously endorsing a resolution recognizing his "inestimable contribution" during nearly 11 years in power.
Botha was conspicuously absent. He refused to attend, and a dinner scheduled to have been held in his honor Wednesday night was canceled without explanation.