Veto demand stalls South African talks


By Norm Dixon

The determination of the South African government to entrench white minority rule in any new constitution has stalled the Conference for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations. The uncompromising demand of President F.W. de Klerk's National Party for minority veto rights has prompted the African National Congress to begin a review of its participation in CODESA and to threaten a campaign of mass action.

Prior to the second plenary session of CODESA, which met over the May 16-17 weekend, agreement was reached between all 19 parties attending that the new constitution would be drafted by a constituent assembly democratically elected on the basis of proportional representation.

However, the session ended in failure after the National Party refused to budge on its demand that a 75% majority of this assembly must approve key elements of any new constitution.

The ANC, which had proposed that a two-thirds majority be required, was prepared to accept a compromise of 70%. This was rejected on the calculations of the National Party's number-crunchers, because it would not be enough for the pro-government alliance — which includes various far-right white parties, the Inkatha Freedom Party, apartheid collaborators in the Bantustans and small minorities in the Indian and Coloured communities disoriented by Inkatha- and state-sponsored violence — to overrule the massive majority that the ANC and its allies are expected to win.

Pallo Jordan, ANC information director, said that the National Party's insistence on "the absurd formula of loser takes all" reflected its refusal to accept "the inevitable consequence of democracy: that they will have to go into opposition".

Jordan said the ANC national executive would soon consider a campaign of mass demonstrations. The Congress of South African Trade Unions has also announced it will discuss a campaign to force the government to break the impasse it has created.

A senior member of the ANC's team at CODESA, Mohamed Valli Moosa, said that the ANC "would be engaged in a major assessment of negotiations ... and reviewing its approach". He said that after five months of talks, "We ... have nothing to offer the public, a public that is hungry for a political settlement".

Over the next several weeks the ANC would consult its 14 regions, Moosa said. The ANC has withdrawn its compromise proposals and reverted to its demand for a two-thirds majority in a single-chamber constituent assembly.

The liberation movements are also bracing themselves for an upsurge in e.

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