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ANC Issues Demands for Resuming S. Africa Talks

June 24, 1992|SCOTT KRAFT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The African National Congress formally broke off constitutional negotiations with all parties Tuesday and vowed not to return to the table until President Frederik W. de Klerk meets a long list of demands aimed at ending alleged security force involvement in township violence.

The decision by South Africa's leading black opposition group, approved without dissent by its 90-member national executive committee, indefinitely halted the search for a negotiated settlement.

It also marked the first full collapse of contact between the government and the ANC since Nelson Mandela's release from prison more than two years ago. And it opened a dangerous and uncertain new road for a country already racked by bloodshed, deepening black poverty and widespread distrust of the white-controlled security forces.

"We cannot tolerate a situation where the regime's control of state power allows it . . . to deny and cover up its role in fostering and fomenting violence," said ANC Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa, reading the executive committee's statement.

ANC officials called on De Klerk to set up an international commission of inquiry into the massacre last week of 39 blacks in Boipatong township, the most serious incident in a pattern of township violence that has left 8,000 blacks dead since De Klerk launched his reform program in 1990.

Ramaphosa said the government "cannot escape culpability" for the Boipatong massacre, which the ANC contends was carried out by black supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party with the aid of the police.

President De Klerk said the ANC's decision to halt talks was "based on a fundamental untruth"--that the government was behind the violence and the massacre.

And the president said that the ANC, with its campaign of mass protests, is only heightening tensions in the country.

"It can be compared to lighting a match next to a gasoline tank," De Klerk told reporters in Spain on Tuesday before his return to South Africa. He added that the only route forward is through "constructive negotiations."

At a Madrid news conference, De Klerk ruled out direct foreign intervention in South Africa's political violence, Reuters news agency reported, but said he would welcome fact-finding teams from the United Nations or the European Community.

The ANC said it would resume negotiations only if De Klerk's white-minority government meets 12 demands, which Mandela said he plans to present to the president personally later this week.

Among those demands are that the government cease all covert operations, suspend and prosecute all police involved in township violence and force its self-governing black homelands to end political repression.

Other demands are that the government carry out its year-old promises to phase out the migrant worker hostels, such as the Inkatha-controlled one from which last week's massacre was launched. In the meantime, the ANC added, the government must post round-the-clock police guards on the hostels, conduct regular searches there and ban the carrying of all dangerous weapons in public.

"These are demands that are doable. They are not outrageous demands," Ramaphosa told a news conference. "We are really just expressing and echoing what our people have been asking."

However, ANC leaders kept the door open for a return to negotiations.

"If the government meets some demands, the most important ones, we will sit down and review our position," ANC President Nelson Mandela said. "But we are determined that the (white) minority in this country is not going to dictate to the (black) majority."

The ANC, reflecting the feelings of millions of blacks, has lost faith in the government's sincerity, believing that De Klerk is pursuing a double agenda--embracing negotiations while conducting a covert strategy to subvert the political process and destroy the ANC.

Mandela had suspended all direct talks with the government Sunday pending Tuesday's closed-door meeting. The committee approved Mandela's decision Tuesday and broadened it by also pulling out of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, or CODESA, the 19-party forum negotiating a transition to a multiracial democracy.

Those talks already had stalled, and the ANC said the fundamental reason was a disagreement with the government "over whether there is to be democratic change or white-minority veto powers" in writing a new constitution.

The ANC's decision was reached by consensus after a 3 1/2-hour meeting, committee members told The Times. Although some committee members urged more strongly worded demands, no one objected to the decision to pull out of both CODESA and the separate bilateral talks with the government, the sources said.

"The question facing us was: How do we get negotiations back on track?" said Raymond Suttner, director of political education for the ANC and a popular national executive member.

He said that a return to the so-called armed struggle, the largely ineffectual guerrilla war waged for 30 years by the ANC, was not raised as a serious option at the meeting. But the feeling of most ANC leaders was that the talks had failed to force the government to end the violence or acknowledge the role of its own agents in the bloodshed.

"We felt that breaking off the talks was one of the surest ways of returning to negotiations in the long run," Suttner said.

Among the stronger demands that were considered and discarded was a suggestion that the ANC urge restoration of the international sports boycott of South Africa. Whites have relished their new-found place in world athletic competition, and the South African team in the Olympics next month in Barcelona will be the first in the Games in 32 years.

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