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S. Africa Blacks Gain Share of Power : Democracy: Approval by Parliament of a multiracial transitional council sets stage for lifting of economic sanctions.

September 24, 1993|BOB DROGIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — This country's white-dominated Parliament on Thursday approved an interim arrangement to share power with blacks for the first time, a historic move that sets the stage for lifting of international economic sanctions against South Africa.

Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, is expected to ask for termination of all remaining non-military sanctions against South Africa when he addresses the U.N. Committee Against Aparthezid today in New York.

A multiracial Transitional Executive Council will effectively supervise key sectors of the existing white government until the country's first all-race elections, scheduled for April 27, are held.

The 20-member council--with blacks in the majority--could begin operating by mid-October, officials said. It will mark a significant milestone on the country's march toward black-majority rule and give the 30 million blacks their first voice in the running of the country.

President Frederik W. de Klerk, who received news of Parliament's vote while flying to New York, hailed the action as "another turning point, another milestone" in the process toward democratic, multiracial government in South Africa.

"I have no doubt," he told a news conference at the United Nations, "that we can now finally and confidently say that the process has become irreversible."

A White House statement declared: "We applaud this vital move forward in the transition to democracy in South Africa."

While the multi-party panel will not have absolute powers, it will have broad oversight authority over the country's police, armed forces, intelligence services, civil service and budget.

The council will be empowered to organize a new national peacekeeping force, drawn equally from military and police agencies. Seven subcommittees will also investigate and suspend police officers accused of abuses, demand access to most government files, monitor state spending, supervise state radio and TV and oversee all aspects of the planned elections.

Thursday's vote to approve the panel came after three raucous days of debate in a special session of Parliament in Cape Town. Armed police patrolled outside the building with dogs and armored vehicles as a precaution against violence by right-wing whites. But there were no disruptions.

Despite cries of "traitor" by white opponents, De Klerk's National Party used its overwhelming majority in the white chamber of Parliament to win the vote, 107 to 36.

The 104 lawmakers in the separate and largely powerless mixed-race and Indian chambers of Parliament also voted unanimously in favor of the bill. There is no parliamentary house to represent blacks.

Immediately after the vote, Ferdi Hartzenberg, firebrand leader of the white separatist Conservative Party, stood and denounced what he called the "final abdication by the government." He angrily vowed to resist the council's mandate, then led his 36 followers out in protest.

The Afrikaner Peoples' Front, an alliance of militant right-wing groups, also predicted increased violence. "In fact, this could easily lead to start of full-scale civil war," it said in a statement.

The ANC welcomed the vote. "For the first time in the history of our country, the racist Parliament has approved a bill which is responsive to the will and aspirations of the majority of the people of South Africa," it said in a statement.

The bill to create a multiracial transition council in a country ruled throughout its history by a white minority was hammered out earlier this month after lengthy negotiations in Johannesburg among the country's 26 main political parties and jurisdictions. All the groups will be able to appoint a representative to the council.

But several parties, including the Conservative Party and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, the ANC's chief rival, said they will boycott the council and not cooperate in the elections for a 400-member constituent assembly.

Times staff writer Stanley Meisler, at the United Nations in New York, contributed to this report.

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