DURBAN, South Africa — The historic convention of the African National Congress, which ended early Sunday, removed any doubt that supporters of the onetime guerrilla movement are committed to negotiations--but are also deeply suspicious of the white-controlled government.
The result of that militant pragmatism is likely to be renewed clashes with the government over ANC protest marches and resistance campaigns, such as the occupation of empty white schools by pupils in severely overcrowded black schools.
"The ANC is an equal partner and not simply an organization to be controlled or consolidated," Nelson Mandela, the newly elected ANC president, said.
The five-day conference ended without a firm statement on sanctions, suggesting that the 2,000 delegates could not agree on that contentious issue.
Mandela said the ANC agreed to urge foreign governments to maintain sanctions, but he added that the movement must be flexible and imaginative "to ensure this weapon is kept in our hands."
Despite the ANC's formal support, sanctions are crumbling worldwide in response to President Frederik W. de Klerk's reforms. ANC moderates believe that the only way to persuade foreign governments to keep some pressure on Pretoria is to adopt a plan for the phased removal of sanctions.
In its first reaction to the conference, the government said it welcomes the ANC's "apparent greater flexibility" about negotiations, but the election of 30 Communist Party members to the 90-member governing body was a "negative and worrying aspect."
"The government is of the opinion, broadly speaking, that this conference could usher in a new period in the negotiation process," said Gerrit Viljoen, minister of constitutional development.
But the debates on the floor of the convention reflected a broad distrust in the ANC for De Klerk and the way his government is conducting its reform initiatives.
Cheryl Carolus, a newly elected member of the ANC's national executive committee, said, "I've probably never felt as angry and as cheated by the South African government as I do now."
The Cape Town activist, a Communist Party member who was in the first round of ANC-government talks last year, said her initial optimism had evaporated because the government couldn't stop the township violence and De Klerk did not act to clean up the security forces after judicial inquiries into government-sponsored hit squads.
"That's why we have all become determined that we have to nail this government on everything it says, on every point," Carolus said.
The loss of faith was reflected in conference resolutions that directed the ANC's new leaders to continue boycotting constitutional negotiations until the government acts decisively to end township violence. Delegates also agreed to step up "mass actions" against the government, such as protest marches and consumer boycotts, and resist any attempts to disarm the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).
By deciding to pursue negotiations while at the same time stepping up pressure on the government, the ANC delegates appeased both pro-negotiation moderates and anti-negotiation militants. And it gave rank-and-file members the feeling that they had a say in the ANC's policy for the first time since it was legalized 17 months ago.
"The spirit of the conference was one of unity and of a gap being bridged," said Raymond Suttner, the ANC's director of political education and a new executive committee member.
Before the conference, many ANC members felt that the negotiation process had been conducted "in a way that left them as spectators," Suttner said. This resulted in recruiting difficulties, organizational problems and a lack of interest in mass protests and other pressure tactics.
Some members, especially those from townships torn by factional violence, believe that Mandela and other leaders were too quick to suspend the ANC's armed struggle last year. "But the number is small," said Joe Modise, ANC military commander.
Mandela acknowledged that "there still remain enormous differences about the nature of changes that have to occur" before the ANC can enter formal negotiations with the government. The ANC has refused to enter those talks until the government ends township violence, frees the remaining political prisoners and allows all exiles to return.
Concern over administrative disorganization was evident in the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, a 38-year-old trade unionist with strong negotiating and administrative skills. He defeated the incumbent Alfred Nzo for secretary general, the second most-powerful position next to Mandela.
"We haven't achieved what we wanted to," said Ronnie Kasrils, a national executive committee member. "And we can't deliver the goods unless we get our organizational machinery right."
Mandela criticized the ANC for failing to attract more new members from among the country's 5 million whites, 3 million mixed-race Coloreds and 1 million Indians. The 700,000-member ANC is considered the most powerful political force among the 28 million blacks.