By Norm Dixon
"We have made tremendous progress in the direction of transforming South Africa into a democracy. In the very foreseeable future, we are going to see a new constitution in the country. We are going to see the transfer of power from the hands of the white minority clique that has been menacing our country for decades to all the people of our country, black and white", Steve Tshwete, a member of the African National Congress's national executive, told a gathering of anti-apartheid activists in Sydney on February 24.
He was visiting Australia at the invitation of the Australian government and the Australian Cricket Board to "acquaint them with developments in our country — political developments and developments in the sports arena".
A champion rugby player in his youth, Tshwete oversaw the ANC's successful effort to force the reorganisation South Africa's sports organisations into united, non-racial bodies and to implement sports development programs so that black sports people can begin to take their rightful place in South Africa's national teams.
He joined the then-banned ANC while at high school. He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years' jail in 1963, which he served to the day on Robben Island. After his release in 1978, there followed years of restrictions, harassment and further imprisonment until he went into exile in 1985. He was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa in 1990.
The ANC leader thanked the Australian anti-apartheid movement for its support over many years, saying this contributed greatly to the progress made so far. He added, however, "Power is still in the hands of the white minority clique. We are still relying on your support in this transitional period to democracy and we are going to rely on you even after we have taken power ...
"Today, we are involved in discussions on fundamental issues leading to the liberated constitution that we are talking about with the government in CODESA [Convention for a Democratic South Africa]", Tshwete said.
He reported that the ANC had forced a major concession from the de Klerk regime during these talks. The ANC has mounted a mass campaign for an interim government to replace the present regime, which could not be trusted to organise fair elections. The ANC also campaigned for an elected constituent assembly that would draft the new constitution. Both demands were opposed by the apartheid regime.
"Because of that struggle, de Klerk has now ... conceded that there must be an interim government. But that interim government must be elected, not, as we originally formulated, appointed from the negotiation forum, CODESA ... So we are now saying 'Yes!' to an elected interim government."
The government has also agreed to an elected "constitution-making body", Tshwete said. "We call it a constituent assembly, they call it a constitution-making body."
Tshwete said the ANC expects the talks to produce a package specifying that an "interim governing council" be appointed from the 19 organisations participating in CODESA. The lifespan of this council would be three to four months, and its main function would be to organise elections for the constituent assembly.
"Once that constitution-making body has been popularly elected, then that interim governing council is going to give way to an interim government of national unity which will be appointed from the organisations that have been successful in winning a place in the constitution-making body."
Even though the ANC is going to win not less than 70% of the votes, Tshwete said confidently, "We want to be seen to be serious when we talk of national reconciliation, when we talk of national unity". The ANC may invite unsuccessful minority parties to participate in that "initial government of national unity", he said.
"It's a very difficult situation", Tshwete explained. "The white people of South Africa have never been ruled by blacks. De Klerk at one point was pleading that the lifespan of the interim arrangement should be something between 15 and 25 years so that the whites could be given enough time to absorb this shock of being ruled by a black president.
"No way could we allow that, but we do want to address white fears ... we are even talking about the idea of 'power sharing' — of course, on the understanding that the dominant factor in that power sharing is the ANC."
Tshwete also explained the context of the relaxation of sports sanctions that has allowed the South African World Cup cricket team to tour Australia: "We can't behave as though there has been no change at all. [Our tactics] must accord with objective reality so that we can effectively direct things ...
"Every time de Klerk made an announcement lifting or scrapping this or that apartheid law, there was a clamour in the OAU [Organisation of African Unity], the UN to reward de Klerk. Even our closest friends — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and the Scandinavian countries — were giving us problems, demanding the immediate lifting of economic sanctions. We realised that if we were doctrinaire and stuck to rigid positions, we were going to yield the initiative to de Klerk."
The ANC then decided on "phased maintenance of sanctions. Any reward that goes to South Africa must be in relation to steps taken in the direction of a democratic constitution. For instance, when there is an interim government, then a particular set of sanctions would be lifted. When that democratic government is actually in place, then the whole sanctions should be removed. Pressure should be removed in relation to progress made."
Before international sporting sanctions could be lifted, the ANC demanded that each sport be united on a non-racial basis and underpinned by development programs to aid the disadvantaged black athletes. "Cricket has now done that successfully", Tshwete said.
The fulfilment of these conditions represents "the movement away from establishment sport toward non-racial sport. It [is] a vindication of the non-racial cause, we have made [the former sports administrations] articulate in practical, real terms the ANC's objective of a free, non-racial society." It was pointed out that the South African cricket team was welcomed to Sydney by the lord mayor against the backdrop of a huge ANC flag.
"We do not expect these development programs to bloom overnight", Tshwete cautioned. "It is a process, it is going to take a number of years before black athletes get to the stage where they can be said to be on par with the white athletes. That is why, for instance today, the cricket team is an all-white team.
"We believe they must go through the ranks, which is happening in the juniors. Today, there is absolutely no under-20 side that can be fielded without blacks being a decisive part of that team. That is on merit alone, not tokenism."